SANTA FE (AP) – A New Mexico panel of legislators voted along party lines to ban late-term abortions.
The House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee voted 4-3 Friday – with Republicans in the majority – after a five-hour hearing to prohibit abortions after five months’ gestation and if the doctor determines the fetus is viable.
The bill is designed to bring New Mexico in line with 42 other states, supporters said.
The committee is now considering a bill that requires minors to notify parents within 48 hours before ending a pregnancy.
Earlier in the day, the committee heard from Jesse Clifton, who told them that he and his wife declined the advice to abort their daughter, Twila.
Holding his 3-year-old daughter as she breathed with the help of an oxygen tube, Clifton said doctors told him and his wife that a genetic condition she would be born with would mean severe physical and mental disabilities.
After his testimony Friday before the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee considering two abortion-related bills, Clifton said, despite “much trouble and hardship, (Twila) is easily twice the joy.”
The same panel also heard from a 14-week pregnant Rachael Riley of Laguna Pueblo, who said in 2013 she worked to help defeat an Albuquerque ballot measure that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks except to save the mother’s life.
During that campaign, Riley found out she was pregnant. Later on, she needed to have an abortion in an emergency because “I nearly bled to death in front of my partner and my daughter.”
“If there was a religious exemption, I would have died and my daughter would have no mother,” Riley said.
Clifton and Riley were among more than 50 speakers – some testifying through tears – on both sides of the abortion debate.
“We have an opportunity to speak for the unborn,” said Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo, speaking to her late-term abortion bill. “To me, this is not a choice.”
Some in the audience sported “pro-faith, pro-family, pro-choice” stickers, while others wore ones that read “Our families, our decisions.”
One woman told the committee she “finds it interesting that we’re not here to regulate men’s bodies.”
Some medical students, gynecologists and other abortion-rights advocates denounced the bills in their comments, urging lawmakers stay out of a personal decision that they said belongs between a woman, her family and her doctor. They said women need safe access to abortions, not government interference.
Several anti-abortion advocates said they were there to speak for the “voiceless” and the rights of the fetus. One woman said that when she was pregnant in school, she heard from so many others who terribly regretted their decision to have an “abortion that was forced upon them.”
Herrell’s bill would amend the existing partial-birth abortion ban in place in New Mexico to add late-term abortions to the legislation. It provides an exemption to a person not willing to participate in an abortion on moral, religious or personal conviction grounds to not be required to participate in the procedure, including dispensing of medication.
Roman Catholic bishops have urged lawmakers to enact new abortion laws this legislative session with the GOP in control of the House for the first time in decades. Democrats remain in control of the Senate.
Both pieces of legislation under consideration include exceptions in cases of rape, incest, sexual abuse and when the woman’s life is in danger.
Under Herrell’s proposal, a physician performing a late-term abortion would face a civil penalty of at least $5,000. In addition, the doctor’s license could be taken away for at least a year, Chris Sanchez, a spokesman for the House Republican Caucus, said in a news release. The penalties only apply to the doctor and are the same for both bills.