New Mexico took a small step toward removing a currently unenforceable state law criminalizing abortion on Saturday.
House Bill 51 (HB 51) – which repeals a 1969 law that made abortion and abortion a fourth-degree felony – was passed by the Consumer Affairs and Public Affairs Committee of the House by a vote of 3 against 2 according to the parties.
New Mexico is one of nine states with a law criminalizing abortion. The landmark Roe vs. Wade The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States made state law inapplicable.
The House consumer and public affairs committee began just after 8:30 a.m. The hearing was moved to the House floor due to interest in the bill, and public comments lasted over three hours.
For the most part, people respected the time limit, and only once did Liz Thomson, the chair of the Democratic Committee, have to intervene to remind speakers to refrain from speaking on the other side. Public comments lasted three and a half hours, with 70 people speaking out against HB 51 and 59 speaking in favor of the bill.
A majority of speakers opposed to the bill argued that it was “bad for women, bad for children and bad for doctors”. The majority of speakers speaking in favor of abortion focused on how the bill makes abortion “safe, accessible and legal”.
Even before the debate began in the committee, Representative Gregg Schmedes, R-Tijeras, sought to introduce the bill. The attempt failed on party lines, with Democrats voting against the motion.
Much of the Republican opposition is focused on removing a section who says the state cannot require any person or institution to perform abortions for moral or medical reasons, Schmedes said he “would not support the bill as drafted” to the moment.
“I think some of these laws should be repealed,” he said. “They are obsolete, especially the first one because it was ruled unconstitutional.”
Federal and state laws allow both health care providers and many institutions to refuse specific treatment in non-emergency settings for end-of-life and childbearing cases as long as other options are available.
Ellie Rushforth, senior attorney at the Women’s Law Center, testified as an expert for the bill from Representative Joanne Ferrary, said the Uniform Health Care Decisions Act would allow conscientious objection to the execution of treatment because “it applies to all decisions relating to health care in the broad sense”.
The bill is now heading to the House Judiciary Committee.