▶ Watch Video: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says states have to “band together” to protect abortion rights

The following is a transcript of an interview with New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that aired on “Face the Nation” on April 16, 2023.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  And we turn now to New Mexico’s Democratic governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. It’s good to have you back here in studio. 

GOV. MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: Thank you, Margaret. I’m happy to be here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So your state is part of a 20 state coalition of Governors, the Reproductive Freedom Alliance, some of the states and have started stockpiling this medication for abortion. When you were here in February, you said that’s the wrong focus, the wrong question. Has it changed?

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: Well. No. For me, it hasn’t changed. And we were- we were going to make sure we already are that we have access to all of those medications. But if the response is we’ll stockpile instead of protecting all access, then we’re minimizing the work that we have to do to make sure that women and families are fully protected. Not that in and of itself, there’s a disagreement by state that’s making sure that irrespective of the legal decisions, we’re going to make sure that medication abortion is available in our state. But I think that we are moving and to Jan’s point, it’s every social issue that you disagree with, is it stem cell research, is it fertility, drugs, whatever it is, in this context, if we’re going to use the federal courts as a way to bar and ban access, we are looking at a national abortion ban and more. And I think states have to band together to do as much as they can in opposition to that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And the states are on the front lines here because there is no federal guarantee. The court kicked it back–

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: That’s right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: To the chief executives like yourself back in June. So currently in New Mexico, abortion is legal. But you don’t actually have a law codifying it. I know you want to write one.

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: We do- we do now. So the last time I was here, we didn’t. And you were, and thank you, talking about Colorado’s work. We now have a law both codifying right to abortion, abortion care and access as well as gender affirming care in the state. So that just got signed by me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What so, nail down for me then how do you define because up till now my understanding is there wasn’t a limit on when in pregnancy, a woman could receive an abortion? Have you set any limit on that? 

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: There are no limits. So for us-

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s very controversial.

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: It can be I mean, look, it’s the 1% of all abortions. And that’s still a sizable number of abortions worldwide-

MARGARET BRENNAN: One percent over 21 weeks of pregnancy.

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: Correct. However, you know, look, these are women that have named these soon to be born babies. These are horrific medical conditions. And again, New Mexico’s position, and mine, is that we should not be interfering with a woman’s right medical situation and her decision about that life threatening potential circumstance. We shouldn’t be doing that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Explain that. How do you define fetal viability and or that line, you say it’s very, very uncommon, but?

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: It is, that is not defined, it is left to two physicians make that decision with the patient. That’s the issue is that the-

MARGARET BRENNAN: Two physicians.

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: Two physicians. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And so the fear is that folks could take that to an extreme if someone has an affliction, that isn’t life threatening. 

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: Well, of course, 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But they’re picking and choosing which children they want to carry to term or not.

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: I find that argument not to be nearly as compelling as the arguments that we make that we should be focused on contraceptives and better maternal health care, which means you have better outcomes. It’s the wrong side of the argument, and it pushes buttons for people’s fears about what’s really happening. Late term abortions should occur as rarely as humanly possible. And they should be only for life threatening conditions of the- of the fetus or the mother, and that should be analyzed by that physician. If we start making any access points, which we are all around the country, you end up with triggers and six weeks fewer than six weeks. These are all barriers to women’s health care, comprehensive reproductive health care. And New Mexico is going to stand with many other states to make sure that’s not the direction we’re headed. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So your state has become this haven of sorts for the surrounding states that do heavily restrict abortion like Texas-


MARGARET BRENNAN: And Oklahoma. So that’s I’m sure part of your calculus here in crafting laws you did. But I wanted to come back to something you said both in February and  in other remarks. You talked about using federal lands. You talked about talking to the tribes in your state, you’ve a large tribal population there. You said we’re moving towards tribal nations providing access, including abortion. The Hyde Amendment, prevents federal dollars being used for abortion, the White House has not endorsed this- 

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: But sovereign land- that sovereign land is a whole different designation-

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you doing this? 

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM:  We aren’t doing it now. But I think we will. And I think we can.


GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: Well, a couple of different ways a sovereign nation makes its own decisions. Now, the question that I think you’re asking is, would we use Medicaid to actually pay for those services? That is complicated with the Hyde Amendment. So the answer there is no, but we do a ton of state investments. And tribes have their own resources. They’re already building behavioral health clinics, they run hospitals, they run primary care clinics, they’re already in the business of delivering health care. And at least one of those tribes, the Pueblo in New Mexico, has certainly indicated that they would be more than ready, willing, able, and interested to make sure that access, because women of color, have limited access for a number of reasons all over the country. And these are pueblos, I want to make sure that the- the women and families in their Pueblo or sovereign nation have equal access, irrespective of distances that they might have to travel.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because last June, Vice President Harris was asked about this. And she said, No, the White House isn’t looking at it. Are they looking at it? Or is this just you?

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: Well, I don’t think the White House is looking at it. But they have heard loud and clear from a variety of states, including New York, that every federal tool in the toolbox ought to be used to protect and expand access. New Mexico has an opportunity with 23 independent tribes to do that in a little different way. And so the point was, we won’t leave any access point right on the table, if it makes sense. And we have willing partners.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  I want to quickly ask you about the water crisis. There’s this debate over the Colorado River, which appears to be drying up. It’s been drought stricken for like two decades now. Do you need the Biden administration to step in here? Because the states aren’t settling this amongst themselves.

GOV. LUJAN GRISHAM: I think we do. And I think having at least $4 billion, which is an incentive. What got- people aren’t going to give up water rights and automatically lean in to do conservation. It’s hard. And it’s full of risk. The Biden administration, rightly so got money available to create incentives so that we’re doing better conservation and management. You’ve got six states working pretty well together, California, big water user, going to be tough. But with good snowpacks, money, incentives and cooperation. We are in the best place ever to do something meaningful about this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor, thank you for your time. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Good to have you back. And we’ll be right back.