SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – After hours of debate Tuesday, the New Mexico House passed a bill limiting the state’s ability to interfere with reproductive healthcare or gender-affirming healthcare. Next, the bill will be discussed by senators.
Sponsored by a handful of Democratic legislators, House Bill 7 is being touted by supporters as life-saving healthcare protection. But some opponents say (such as in a tweet by House Republicans) that it would allow for the “mutilation of children.”
So, what exactly does the bill say?
Following several amendments, the latest version of the bill covers several issues. First, the bill prohibits public entities, and those acting on behalf of public entities, from discriminating against someone because they use or refuse reproductive health care services. That includes abortion, fertility treatment, etc.
The bill also prohibits public entities, and those acting on behalf of public entities, from interfering (even indirectly) with a persons access to reproductive healthcare. And the bill prohibits interfering with someone’s ability to act [i.e., make choices] about their pregnancy.
In addition to giving New Mexicans protections regarding reproductive health, the bill also affords similar protections to those seeking gender-affirming care. In the bill, that’s specifically defined as: “psychological, behavioral, surgical, pharmaceutical and medical care, services and supplies provided to support a person’s gender identity.”
But nothing in the bill requires any healthcare providers to provide care that they don’t otherwise have a duty to provide under the law. And the bill doesn’t require providers to do things against medical judgement while acting within their standards of care.
Morality or Safety?
Much of the debate over the bill centered on the implied morality of the idea. For example, Rep. Randall T Pettigrew (R-Lea) noted that he feels the supporters of the bill don’t meet the moral standards of New Mexico: “The list of people, organizations that I see as supporters of this legislation, focus[es] more along a very specific central area in the State of New Mexico that does not – and will not probably ever – meet the moral [turpitude] of the rest of the state,” he said. “And that concerns me significantly.”
But bill supporters framed the bill as a way to better protect New Mexicans, especially kids. “For too many kids – fewer than one in three – feel comfortable talking to their parents about these issues. And this is a concern both for reproductive healthcare but also, especially, gender-affirming healthcare,” said bill co-sponsor Rep. Linda Serrato (D-Santa Fe). “It is suicide prevention.”
Serrato also disagreed with the idea that the bill would allow for the mutilation of kids. “Nothing permanent can happen until someone is an adult,” she argued. For children, she added, the bill would put in place simple ideas such as requiring providers to listen to what children need in order to feel safe or accepted.
More debate to come
Ultimately, the majority of the House voted in favor of the bill. Every Republican voted against the bill, as did a handful of Democrats.
When the vote was called it was clear that not everyone had said their piece. As such, it’s likely that the next round of debate, this time among New Mexico’s senators, will be contentious as well.