The Capitol Rotunda was standing room only.
“We want to make the Rotunda tremble,” the Rev. Richard Mansfield said. “The shouts of people of God who love the Lord and stand for the sanctity of life.”
Shouts of “amen” and “hallelujah” echoed back from the 110 or so anti-abortion activists and church leaders who attended a worship service Wednesday morning, protesting abortion on the 47th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, which established abortion rights nationwide.
Preachers, nonprofit leaders and legislators told the crowd they would continue to fight legislation that would decriminalize abortion in the state.
Mansfield, a preacher at New Beginnings Church in Albuquerque, asked for forgiveness for those who’ve had abortions and asked for prayers for legislators.
“We will fight to have every abortion clinic in this city and this state closed by the end of the year,” Mansfield said. “We’re going to say it doesn’t exist here anymore. In fact, we’re going to say it doesn’t exist anymore in the United States.”
Many of the groups at Wednesday’s prayer service publicly opposed House Bill 51 in the 2019 Legislature, which attempted to repeal an old New Mexico law that makes it a crime to perform an abortion.
“Our hope is to end abortion for good — forever,” said Ethel Maharg, executive director of the Right to Life Committee of New Mexico.
Vince Torres, president of Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico and a pastor at Blaze Christian Fellowship in Santa Fe, helped organize the prayer service in the Rotunda. According to its website, the group advocates for biblical policy. It is against abortion at any stage of pregnancy, does not believe transgender people should be “normalized” and believes that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Torres recognized legislators such as Reps. Gregg Schmedes, R-Tijeras; Joseph Sanchez, D-Alcalde; David Gallegos, R-Eunice; and Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, for their votes against HB 51.
Three New Mexico local governments adopted nonbinding resolutions last year to support life at conception — Lea County, the city of Roswell and Eddy County.
Ellie Rushforth, a reproductive rights lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, told The New Mexican the resolutions pose an indirect threat.
“In a state with a shortage of rural health care providers, resolutions like these only create confusion and stigma, and have a chilling effect on access to safe and legal abortion,” Rushforth said in a statement.
Between speakers, attendees sang contemporary Christian music that echoed through the halls.
A few blocks away, several bishops celebrated a special Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi that culminated in a prayer, a march up the street and a rally inside the Roundhouse. Staff at the cathedral estimated around 900 people attended Wednesday’s Mass.
Archbishop John C. Wester of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Bishop Peter Baldacchino of the Diocese of Las Cruces and Bishop James Wall of the Diocese of Gallup were joined by retired Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan.
Baldacchino delivered the homily, calling for prayers for people who seek abortions and for legislators.
In the afternoon, more than 200 people gathered at the cathedral and marched to the Capitol, holding signs with slogans like “Shut Down Planned Parenthood” and “Right to Life Right Now.”
Jamie Santillanes, 43, brought her four children — ages 10, 8, 6 and 2 — from Albuquerque to march with her and her husband. She said she stands outside of clinics “to pray for the women inside.”
She said she had lost four pregnancies to miscarriages, with one occurring when she was 10 weeks pregnant.
“I saw my baby at 10 weeks with hands, feet, nose,” Santillanes said. “I’m not going to buy into their lie that life doesn’t begin at conception.”