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Gov. Lujan Grisham asks Biden to consider providing abortion care on federal land


A handful of Democratic governors quickly moved to protect abortion access after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, including our next guest, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. She and other governors met with President Biden this afternoon to talk about how states can respond to the ruling.

Governor Lujan Grisham, welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: Well, I'm delighted to be back on the show. Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: Your state borders Texas and Oklahoma, which have restricted abortion access. How is New Mexico preparing to become a de facto refuge for people seeking abortion from neighboring states?

LUJAN GRISHAM: By signaling and making it clear using the power of the governor's priorities and efforts, using the whole of state government to make sure that providers and women and others seeking abortion care know that when I say it's safe, legal and accessible, that we're really focused on access. So...

SHAPIRO: But do you have the infrastructure? Do you have the staff? Do you have the resources?

LUJAN GRISHAM: We do. And that is going to be a question that all of the Democratic governors who are putting up a brick wall and making sure that no one is going to prevent us or knock that wall down for a safe haven. But here's where you can really make a difference. Providers, in addition to resources, are going to be very nervous about these draconian policies that states like Texas are launching into, saying they will criminalize providers and patients. That has the biggest chilling effect on access. So before...

SHAPIRO: So what's the remedy?

LUJAN GRISHAM: The remedy is, for me, no extraditions, no warrants. We're going to cooperate with the DOJ to protect providers and to protect patients. All of that will be protected, accessible and be managed by state government here in New Mexico. And that's going to happen in places like New York, Massachusetts.

SHAPIRO: How extraordinary is it for a governor to say, my state will not cooperate with law enforcement from a neighboring state; there will be no extraditions? That's not something I've heard of before.

LUJAN GRISHAM: Well, it is not usual. But it is now got to be part of what we're considering in order to protect patient freedoms and patient access when - how extraordinary is it that a state says they're going to prosecute their own residents and their health care providers for providing legal procedures in another state? This is the nuttiest thing and the most draconian, ineffective policies I've ever seen. So you'd say no to those states that I think are pandering to now a very political Supreme Court and a very extreme political base.

SHAPIRO: Let me ask you about another step that you and some other governors have suggested, which is to build clinics that would provide abortion on federal land in states that prohibit the procedure. Now, the White House has expressed concern that this could put pregnant people and abortion providers in danger. Would you like to see this happen? Do you think it's a good idea?

LUJAN GRISHAM: I think it has to be on the table. You've got many sovereign nations that have clinical space in their own health clinics and health programs. I think the federal government, in addition to protecting - right? - prescription drug access so that Plan B is readily available all across the country using telehealth - that every federal operational aspect in terms of clinical access is considered. And all of the governors, including myself, pushed hard. You need more money in family planning. This is how we preserve access, support providers and really focus on what we think is coming, is more restrictions to contraceptives.

SHAPIRO: You said during the White House meeting that you have been in touch with tribal leaders who are supportive of putting clinics that provide abortions on federal land. Can you tell us about those conversations? Are there people who are encouraging this from within native communities?

LUJAN GRISHAM: There are. And in New Mexico, in fact, there is a strong young women's reproductive rights coalition. And really...

SHAPIRO: Of course, New Mexico is a state that wouldn't need it because your state is allowing abortion.

LUJAN GRISHAM: Correct. But in other...

SHAPIRO: But in Oklahoma and Texas...

LUJAN GRISHAM: That's exactly the point, Ari. If you've got a sovereign nation that says, we're interested in being supportive in this space - because otherwise, they see a pattern of discrimination if you don't have an accessible provider because so many other women are coming. They're recognizing they could stand up services in a meaningful way. That signals to me that there's likely more support for that in places like Oklahoma. And I think it should be explored by the federal government.

SHAPIRO: Let me ask broadly - the leak of the Supreme Court's opinion in this case gave Democrats almost two months to prepare for the day that Roe would be overturned. And yet the response by the national party in the last week seems to have been a scramble. There does not seem to be a cohesive message or plan of action. Why wasn't your party more prepared for this moment?

LUJAN GRISHAM: A year ago, we repealed our criminalization statute for abortion - antiquated, unconstitutional - in New Mexico that signaled, get rid of it. I think you're seeing states who thought about contraceptives, family planning, school-based health centers. That took two months to marshal those resources, to talk to the DOJ, to push Congress to be as ready as they can. But when you have a situation where you don't have a constitutional right, legislatures aren't in session. And too many Democratic governors in the country have Republican legislatures, so you don't have a quick turnaround vehicle. You could have prepared any number of efforts, but you don't have the power to execute them. And that is where we are as a country, which is why the work of Democratic governors and this presidential administration are going to be critical to protect all populations who deserve autonomy in reproductive choices.

SHAPIRO: New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, thank you very much.

LUJAN GRISHAM: You got it. Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah Handel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]