New Mexico Senate passes bill that would repeal 1969 abortion ban

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Lourdes Salazar protests abortion, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, during 40 Days for Life in Farmington. The New Mexico Senate passed a bill on Feb. 11 that would repeal a 1969 law preventing abortions except in the case of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother.

AZTEC — The New Mexico Senate has passed a bill that would repeal the 1969 abortion ban.

This bill passed on a 25-17 vote on Feb. 11 following multiple attempted amendments by Republicans as well as two Republican-backed floor substitutions that both failed. it now goes to the New Mexico House of Representatives.

The Repeal Abortion Ban, or Senate Bill 10, was sponsored by Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, and Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe. 

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A 1970s U.S. Supreme Court case known as Roe v. Wade found that it was unconstitutional to deny a woman the access to a safe and legal abortion. However, there are efforts underway to overturn that ruling. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, each state will have its own laws related to abortion.

The 1969 law made it a felony to provide an abortion to a woman unless her life was in danger or in the case of rape or incest. In those situations, the abortion must occur at a hospital and following authorization by a specialized hospital board.

“This is a simple bill. And it is powerful in its simplicity,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement following passage of the bill. “It affirms a woman’s self-evident autonomy over her own body. And it ensures no health care provider in our state may be criminalized for providing health care. I thank and applaud the women senators who spoke in such personal terms in their supportive testimony today. This was a moment for common-sense leadership and I am grateful to the lawmakers and advocates who have met that moment.”

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Proponents of the bill said the government should not be involved in decisions related to medical care and that the choice to have an abortion should be up to the patient in consultation with their doctor.

Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said that if Roe v. Wade is overturned abortions will continue but they will occur in unsafe manners like in back alleys. Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, who was one of the co-sponsors of the bill, also expressed concerns about back alley abortions and self-attempted abortions using coat hangers. She said every woman should have a right to safe and legal abortion and that it should be the woman’s choice.

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Meanwhile, Sen. Brenda McKenna, D-Corrales, highlighted a time when Native American women were forced by the U.S. government to be sterilized.

“The government has no place in these private decisions.” She said.

Opponents argued that the unborn child’s voice was not being heard and one senator compared the number of aborted fetuses in the United States to the Holocaust.

State Sen. William Sharer

“This is truly a sad day for our state,” added Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, in a press release following the vote. “In addition to sending a message that unborn children’s lives do not matter, we are weakening standards of care for women and repealing the only abortion-related conscience clause we have. Nevertheless, Senate Democrats refused to answer our questions and ultimately prevailed in getting exactly what they wanted all along – unrestricted, elective abortion on demand, up to the moment of birth.”

One of these failed floor substitutions was brought by Sen. Sharer and would have prohibited late term abortions after 35 weeks gestation.

Sharer referenced his Catholic faith several times during discussions.

“I really did go beyond even what I was comfortable with trying to find a compromise,” he said.

His floor substitution came after another failed floor substitution brought by Sen. Crystal Diamond, R-Elephant Butte, that would have prohibited abortion after 20 weeks. Sharer expressed support for that floor substitution.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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