SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Abortion and reproductive care are hot topics at the Roundhouse. Wednesday, legislators considered a bill to re-criminalize abortions in certain circumstances, but the bill failed to move forward.
House Bill 258, sponsored by Rep. John Block (R-Alamogordo), would make it a crime to knowingly perform an abortion without determining if the fetus has a detectable heartbeat or without informing the person carrying the fetus whether or not the fetus has a heartbeat. It would also make it a third-degree felony to perform an abortion if there were a heartbeat.
In essence, the bill would re-criminalize some abortions as had been state law from 1969 to 2021, according to an analysis by the Legislative Finance Committee. The bill might also conflict with another bill currently making its way through the legislature which seeks to prohibit discrimination based on reproductive choices.
Wednesday, February 22, legislators in the House Health and Human Services Committee debated criminalizing abortions. Supporters say the bill aligns with what New Mexicans want.
Legislation that limits abortion at certain ages “is very popular and in line with New Mexicans’ values in our great state,” Rep. Block said. “It is an important step to protecting mothers and babies in the womb all across our great state.”
Some members of the public seemed to agree. “They are babies. I know there’s been an effort to de-humanize them, but they are babies,” said Ethel Maharg, the executive director of the Right to Life Committee of New Mexico. “We want to save these babies.”
During the debate, several people pointed to religious beliefs as a reason to support the legislation. “Please do not put your [political] party ahead of what the Lord wants,” one member of the public said to the legislators. “We are all children of God, and we are entrusted by him to the care of each other,” another commenter said. “And who is more vulnerable and more innocent than the unborn child?”
But not everyone was in favor. “New Mexicans and those who are forced to travel to our state because their own politicians are banning them from access to reproductive healthcare need a few things: One, they need access to make their own personal medical decisions, including abortion care throughout pregnancy,” Kayla Herring, from Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico, said. “And two, they need to be able to make those decisions with their healthcare providers, and not the government.”
Others who opposed the bill said that the bill would hurt women across the state, particularly in poor communities. “This is a bill that denies women and girls bodily autonomy and has tremendous impacts on communities of color and poor communities in New Mexico. We’ve seen what bans have done in other states,” said Janet Gotkin, from the Santa Fe chapter of the National Organization for Women. “This bill is against the values that we hold as New Mexicans.”
Despite emotional pleas from supporters, and heeding the comments of opponents, the committee ultimately voted to table the bill. While that doesn’t mean the bill is permanently dead, it does mean that it’s not likely the bill will move forward any time soon.