I had to learn everything the hard way,” Nicole Martin says of growing up near Albuquerque, New Mexico, and being taught what she calls a “fear-based,” abstinence-focused sex education curriculum. Martin, who’s Navajo and Laguna Pueblo, attended college in Colorado for Native American and Indigenous studies and gender and women’s studies. She figured she could use her degree to teach “what public school didn’t teach me,” she says.
After graduation, she volunteered for environmental justice and Native liberation groups, which led her to Indigenous Women Rising, an organization focused on equitable and safe healthcare. The group’s cofounder, Rachael Lorenzo, was looking for help to launch an abortion services fund. Martin signed up in 2018, and at the end of her first day, she approached Lorenzo. “I told Rachael, ‘This is who I am.… If you want to start sex education, I’m down,’ ” she says.
This article appears in the Fall 2022 issue of Alta Journal.
Martin, who is 31, now leads IWR’s sex education curriculum, which she has taught to middle schoolers in Albuquerque. She also supports the growth of IWR’s abortion fund, which has helped nearly 1,000 people across 37 states access not just abortions but also the necessary transportation, childcare, and hotel accommodations.
After being nominated to cochair an organization called Respect New Mexico Women, Martin helped spearhead the successful repeal of three statutes that criminalized abortion care. She never shies from an argument with white male state senators who push back. Even now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, she says, “New Mexico will always be a safe place for people to seek abortion care.”
Roe v. Wade, Martin says, “has only protected the few,” and Indigenous, Black, and LGBTQ communities often “struggle to find great healthcare.” She has long striven to give her community access to lifesaving reproductive care. Today, she adds, “we’re willing to take on any risks that come with that.”•