The New Mexico Legislature has introduced two identical or "mirror" bills aimed at repealing the 1969 law that criminalized abortion — which currently cannot be enforced due to the Supreme Court passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, wherein the court declared it unconstitutional to restrict a woman's right to choose.
On Jan. 25, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Repeal Abortion Ban (Senate Bill 10), which would repeal New Mexico’s 1969 anti-choice statute if approved by the full Legislature. Six Democrats voted in favor and three Republicans opposed the bill during the committee hearing. The Senate bill has 28 sponsors and was previously passed by the Health and Public Affairs Committee.
Three days later, on Jan. 28, the House passed the mirror bill (House Bill 7) through the House Judiciary Committee, with eight Democrats voting for and four Republicans voting against. The House version of the bill has five sponsors.
A number of arguments emerged for and against the repeal as the bills were heard in committee.
Sondra Roeuny, the Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico director of public affairs, said that more than 25 million women would lose access to abortion care nationwide if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
University of New Mexico medical student Brenna Banwarth-Kuhn, who is in leadership for the local chapter of Medical Students for Reproductive Justice, said that if New Mexico’s 1969 abortion ban is enforced, anyone who seeks abortion care would be "forced to beg in front of a panel of strangers" and that "the closest state where someone could access abortion care is in California."
Planned Parenthood has multiple locations in surrounding states where abortion health care is available.
Some community members spoke against repealing the ban and asserted that some medical providers don't want to be obligated to provide abortions to women who seek their care.
"Stripping the right of conscience protection for New Mexico's medical professionals by the passage of SB 10 will result in a mass out-migration of health care personnel and essential workers," Dr. William Moore, an OB-GYN from the Republican bastion town of Clovis, said.
ACLU of New Mexico attorney and expert witness Ellie Rushforth disputed this claim, saying that there are protections to ensure that health care professionals will never be forced to perform a medical procedure against their will.
Rushforth said it’s important to ensure that boundaries of personal beliefs don’t harm others in legislation.
"Let’s be clear: There is no law in New Mexico that requires providers to provide abortion care. Refusal clauses already exist in state and federal law," Roeuny said. "Removing the old abortion ban will not amend or negate our state’s refusal clauses."
Banwarth-Kuhn agreed in an interview with the Daily Lobo.
"Abortion is a vital aspect of medical care that should be embraced as standard medical practice and as fundamental to medical education,” Banwarth-Kuhn said.
In opposition to the bill, Sen. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, falsely said that the passage of the bill grants women the ability to have abortions until the moment in which they give birth.
"The misinformation that we hear about abortion later in pregnancy is patently false, and ultimately what those claims end up doing is vilifying the families and women who are making highly complex decisions in consultation with their highly trained doctors," Rushforth said.
Rushforth said that private medical decisions cannot be governed or generalized.
"Our law demands good and ethical medicine based on individuals rather than a one-size-fits-all approach," Rushforth said.
If the respective bills are approved in both the House and the Senate, they will be sent to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for a surefire approval. If this happens on or before the end of the regular legislative session, Lujan Grisham will have three days to sign the bill before it automatically becomes law.
Sarah Bodkin is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sarahbodkin4