Abortion provider central to Roe reversal case to open in Las Cruces, opponents protest
LAS CRUCES - Las Cruces Women’s Health Organization is preparing to open its doors to provide the people of southern New Mexico and surrounding areas access to abortion care.
Activists who oppose abortion rights have already pledged to fight to try to drive the clinic out of town. One of their first steps will be the planned establishment of a crisis pregnancy center nearby.
The clinic is moving to Las Cruces from Jackson, Mississippi, where it took a central role in the U.S. Supreme Court case that ultimately resulted in the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the nearly 50-year-old ruling which found the Constitution protected the right to have an abortion.
The Jackson center was the only abortion clinic operating in Mississippi — until recently.
Owner Diane Derzis and Shannon Brewer, Jackson Women’s Health Organization executive director, have both stated publicly that their intention is to create a place where people seeking to end a pregnancy can go for the medical procedure — particularly in a state that does not legally restrict abortion access.
Now, the Las Cruces location, which will also be known as Pink House West to echo the closed Jackson clinic’s nickname, will be the only clinic outside the Albuquerque area to offer medical abortions in the state. Currently, the few abortion providers which exist in southern New Mexico only offer abortion via medication early in a pregnancy.
Pink House West is expected to open soon in a former dentist's office building at 2918 Hillrise Dr. However, the date medical procedures are to begin is still unknown.
A Las Cruces Sun-News reporter dropped by the Hillrise location, but found the doors tightly shut and no signage posted. Operators did not respond to multiple inquiries, both in-person and via email.
Anti-abortion organizers plan competing center next door to Las Cruces abortion provider
Mark Cavaliere is CEO of the Southwest Coalition for Life, a faith-based nonprofit opposed to abortion which organizes against providers in the region. On its website, the group credits its organizing efforts to the closures of three abortion clinics in Las Cruces and El Paso since the group formed in 2015.
On Tuesday evening, several hundred anti-abortion organizers gathered at a rally next to the planned location of Pink House West to decry the clinic’s arrival and talk about next steps for the pro-life movement. During the event, Cavaliere announced the planned opening of a center next door meant to deter people from receiving abortions.
To raucous applause, Cavaliere said a lease was secured at 2908 Hillrise Dr., yards away from the new abortion provider, and staff and volunteers were being sought. Cards were passed around to rally attendees asking for financial contributions to help set up the facility.
“If ever there was a place to respond to a challenge like we’re facing, it’s the City of the Crosses,” Cavaliere told rally goers. “We’ve seen what God can do.”
The facility is planned to be a branch of the Guiding Star Project, which currently has a center in El Paso.
“This will be an affiliate of Guiding Star … to provide that message that we don't feel is being accurately represented from this neighboring facility,” Cavaliere said in an interview with the Sun-News.
The Guiding Star Project is opposed to abortion and contraception, saying on its website both practices “interrupt natural, healthy biological processes” for women.
“Pregnancy is not a disease,” Leah Jacobson, CEO of the National Guiding Star Project, told rally attendees. “Fertility is a gift. It is not a burden.”
Like similar crisis pregnancy centers in Las Cruces, Guiding Star’s center will provide free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, parenting classes, material assistance such as diapers, wipes and infant clothes, post-abortion support groups and “options counseling,” Cavaliere said.
“We do (counseling) in a really non-judgmental way without any shame or judgment, informing women of all the pros and cons of all their decisions — which include parenting, adoption and abortion — in a medically accurate way that a lot of times they're not hearing … from the facility that profits off of one of their choices,” Cavaliere said, claiming that an abortion clinic has a profit incentive to convince someone to terminate a pregnancy.
Critics of these types of pregnancy centers say they often provide medical misinformation to people who are considering abortion, such as claiming it makes women more susceptible to breast cancer, infertility and mental illness.
A 2017 report from NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights organization, argues crisis pregnancy centers use misleading advertising, obscure details over the phone, and use coercive and emotionally manipulative tactics against visitors to persuade women against having an abortion.
One Las Cruces city councilor has previously floated the idea of proposing a citywide ordinance to regulate the ways crisis pregnancy centers present themselves and their services. At least two CPCs already operate in Las Cruces.
Several other cities nationwide have passed ordinances prohibiting CPCs from engaging in deceptive advertising, a type of speech that courts have ruled is not constitutionally protected.
When reached Tuesday, City Councilor Johana Bencomo said she was still researching the best way the city government could address the issue of CPCs within city limits.
Cavaliere said outreach workers will likely be posted outside the Guiding Star facility to offer “support and information” to people considering abortion who may be visiting Pink House West.
The Guiding Star center is just a start. During Tuesday evening’s rally, attendees heard from Mark Lee Dickson, leader of an effort to outlaw abortion by enacting ordinances declaring cities “sanctuary cities” for the unborn. Attendees were also encouraged to look into the records of candidates running in this year’s general election and vote for those who oppose abortion.
“The governor … wants to make this an abortion destination,” said David Gallegos, a Republican State Senator. “Instead of talking about White Sands, they want to talk about the Pink House. We have to take this curse off of New Mexico.”
Michael McDevitt is a city and county government reporter for the Sun-News. He can be reached at 575-202-3205, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MikeMcDTweets on Twitter. Leah Romero is the trending reporter at the Las Cruces Sun-News and can be reached at 575-418-3442, LRomero@lcsun-news.com or @rromero_leah on Twitter.