On February 22, the on-line news publication “New Mexico Political Reports” published the following news article written by its staff reporter Susan Dunlap
HEADLINE: Bill to protect reproductive, gender-affirming healthcare passes House
“A bill that would prohibit discrimination in reproductive healthcare and gender-affirming healthcare passed the House by a 38 to 31 vote on Tuesday evening.
HB 7, Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare, will, if enacted, prohibit municipalities and counties from passing ordinances that directly or indirectly discriminate against either reproductive and gender-affirming care. The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe.
The bill seeks to enable the attorney general or district attorneys to sue an entity responsible for a violation. The court could apply remedies, including monetary damages. The court can also apply a $5,000 civil penalty or actual damages against the entity responsible for the discrimination.
The cities of Clovis and Hobbs and Lea and Roosevelt counties have passed anti-abortion ordinances that impact abortion clinics’ ability to apply for licenses in those political subdivisions and also place restrictions on medication abortion.
Serrato said in her opening remarks that “our state remains a place where we can make complex decisions with doctors.”
State Rep. Kristina Ortez, D-Taos, a bill cosponsor, said 80 percent of transgender individuals consider suicide because of the stigma and shame.
Majority Whip Reena Szczepanski, D-Santa Fe, also a bill cosponsor, said the bill will, if enacted, “prevent any criminalization of providers at the local level.”
“I can’t imagine a more chilling effect,” she said.
Republicans tried to amend the bill on the House floor multiple times. Minority Floor Leader T. Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, introduced two amendments. The first amendment would have limited HB 7 to only apply to an emancipated minor or individuals 18 years or older. Lane expressed concern about children disclosing a desire for pharmaceutical gender-affirming care or a 10 year-old girl needing an abortion and confiding in a teacher rather than a parent. That amendment failed 44 to 23.
Serrato said it was an unfriendly amendment and that teachers are already expected to report a crime or talk to the child’s parents. She added that it is “important to acknowledge children are people as well.”
Lane’s second attempted amendment would have inserted conscientious objection for abortion care for teachers. That amendment failed 43 to 24. Serrato said it was an unfriendly amendment and that it would prevent individuals from getting the healthcare they need.
State Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, tried to amend the bill to require parental consent if a child under the age of 18 seeks an abortion or gender-affirming care. Serrato said that was also an unfriendly amendment because research shows that “efforts to enforce parental notification often has the opposite effect” and said that being able to access care can reduce drug usage and be “life saving.”
“This bill primarily deals with discrimination, so this would be logrolling,” Serrato said. Logrolling refers to when a bill attempts to address multiple topics within one piece of legislation.
That amendment failed 44 to 25.
State Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, tried to amend the bill to include language that would require standards of care for abortion to be applied to “surgical clinics, maintain the same level of medical malpractice insurance as clinics that provide obstetrics and gynecology, that abortion facilities would have to employ emergency care staff and equipment on site or admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and that an abortion clinic will provide 24-hour medical care.”
Serrato called that amendment unfriendly and said that abortion clinics are highly regulated, like all standards of care.
That amendment failed 44 to 23.
State Rep. Randall Pettigrew, R-Clovis, asked if firefighters would be vulnerable under this bill. Serrato emphasized that under this bill, no one’s scope of work would change.
State Rep. Nathan Lane, D-Las Cruces, asked if the bill is enacted, “do you think it will save a New Mexico kid’s life?”
Serrato said “100 percent.” Serrato said gender-affirming care can include things such as using the correct pronouns and a person’s correct name.
“It will save lives in our state,” she said about the bill
State Rep. Charlotte Little, D-Albuquerque, asked Serrato to explain hormone therapy as healthcare. Little is also a co-sponsor on the bill.
Serrato said individuals use hormone therapy “for everything,” and then named off examples such as some forms of birth control and menopausal medicines.
State Rep. Janelle Anyanonu, D-Albuquerque, who is also a cosponsor on the bill, asked about how a lack of access to reproductive healthcare can harm women of color in particular.
“I’ve seen from national statistics, women of color are disproportionately affected medically, women of color have much higher rates of maternal mortality and…Black women are four times more likely to die in childbirth,” she said.
Serrato said women who are low income are also disproportionately affected.
The House Judiciary Committee amended the bill last week to clean up some language to ensure that agents are acting on behalf of a public body, that any moral concerns a provider might have are not violated and that they have all the protections already in existing statute to prevent providers from having to provide care they object to performing. The committee also amended the bill to clarify that if a civil suit arises, it could only do so against the public body, not against an individual.
The bill now heads to the state Senate.”
The link to the New Mexico Politcal Report where the article appears is here:
In a related news article published by the Albuquerque Journal article entitled “House endorses proposal intended to strengthen abortion rights in New Mexico” written by Journal staff reporter Dan Boyd, it was reported as follows:
“Protecting abortion rights was a centerpiece of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s reelection campaign last year. She announced Tuesday that she is one of 20 governors establishing a multi-state network intended to strengthen abortion access.
“This historic alliance will continue to work to guarantee reproductive freedom in each of our states and to restore that right to every woman in America,” Lujan Grisham said in a written statement.
In addition to the House bill acted on Tuesday, lawmakers are also considering legislation, Senate Bill 13, that would put into law an executive order issued last year by Lujan Grisham. It would prohibit state agencies from sharing the reproductive health care information of patients or providers for an out-of-state investigation.
U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-N.M., expressed support for the House bill during a Tuesday speech to lawmakers, and she said during a subsequent interview the proposal comes at an important time.
“We’ve had the undermining and eroding of our basic rights at the federal level,” Stansbury said, referring in part to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year overturning the Roe v. Wade decision.
The link to the full Journal article is here:
A link to a related news article is here:
BACKGROUND REQUIRING NEED FOR LEGISLATION
It was on February 26, 2021, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill repealing the 1969 abortion ban. The 1969 law criminalized abortion to end a woman’s pregnancy except in certain circumstances, such as rape and incest. The 1969 state statute had not been enforced in the state due to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v Wade in the 1970s, which legalized abortion nationwide. The repeal of the 1969 law was necessitated by the fact the repeated attempts had been made over the years to have the United States Supreme Court reversed the decision of Roe v Wade.
On June 22, 2021 the United States Supreme Court released its decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization wherein the Supreme Court overruled and reversed the cases of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey and 50 years of constitutional law precedence ruling that a woman does not have constitutionally protected right to an abortion. The US Supreme Court ruled the authority to regulate abortion was returned to the individual states and their elected representatives.
As a direct result of the Supreme Court’s Dobb’s decision, abortion and woman’s reproductive rights became a defining issue in New Mexico’s 2022 Gubernatorial race between incumbent Democrat Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican Mark Ronchetti. Republican Mark Ronchetti made abortion and imposing limits on a woman’s right to choose a center piece of his campaign and suggested a “reasonable policy” that proposed banning abortion after 15 weeks of gestation, with exceptions for rape, incest, and to preserve the life of the mother. Ronchetti went so far to call for a constitutional amendment where voters would decide whether abortion should be illegal.
2022 GENERAL ELECTION POLL ON ABORTION
On August 29, 2022, the Albuquerque Journal published the results of poll taken on the issue of abortion rights for the November 2022 general elections. The link to read the full unedited Journal column is here:
The poll found thar New Mexico voters are 3 times more likely to say abortion should always be legal than they were to say it should always be illegal. According to the poll, 35% of statewide voters surveyed said abortion should always be legal, 22% said the procedure should be legal, for a combined total of 57%.
The poll found that 25% felt there should be some limitations and said it should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest or when a mother’s life is in danger. Just 12% of voters surveyed said abortion should always be illegal, while 4% would not say and 2% said they did not know.
According to the Journal poll results, Democrats are firmly behind a woman’s right to choose with 55% of Democrats saying abortion should always be legal and 24% of Democrats said it should be legal with some limitations for a whopping 79% combined percentage.
Republicans’ opinion are dramatically opposite with 8% saying abortion should always be legal, while 24% said it should be banned and 41% said it should be illegal with exceptions for cases of rape, incest and to save a mother’s life, with a 65% combined total to make it illegal or illegal with the exceptions of rape, incest or threat to the life of the woman.
The difference by party affiliation shrinks to a 6% difference when it comes to how voters they felt if abortions should be legal with some limitations. Interestingly, more Democrats, 24%, felt that there should be some limitations while fewer Republicans, 18%, felt there should be some limitations.
The Journal Poll did not find a big difference in attitudes on abortion between New Mexico voters based on their gender, ethnicity and age. There was little difference in voters’ views on abortion based on their education level with one exception, voters with graduate degrees were far more likely than other groups of voters to say abortion should always be legal.
NEW MEXICO COUNTIES AND TOWNS TRY TO INTEFERE WITH WOMEN’S REPDUCTIVE RIGHTS
On November 4, 2022 it was reported that the City Commission of Clovis, New Mexico put off a vote on an ordinance designed to ban abortions within the New Mexico town fearing challenges to the move in a state where the procedure remains legal. Clovis was set to become the first town to pass a so-called “sanctuary city for the unborn”
On November 8, it was reported that the Hobbs City Commission unanimously passed an ordinance designed to ban abortions, despite the procedure being legal in the state. The so-called “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinance blocks abortion clinics from operating. At least one nearby county has approved an anti-abortion resolution. The ordinance will surely be challenged in court and set aside.
ATTORNEY GENERAL RAUL TORREZ FILES CHALLENGE TO MUNXIPAL AND COUNTY ORDINANCES
On January 22, New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez filed an emergency petition with the New Mexico Supreme Court that challenges the anti-abortion ordinances passed by communities in eastern New Mexico. Torrez is asking the New Mexico Supreme Court strike down the ordinances, arguing they violate civil rights guaranteed by the state Constitution.
The legal challenge was filed as a direct result of the cities of Hobbs and Clovis, and the counties of Lea and Roosevelt passed local ordinances targeting abortion. According to the lawsuit filed the city and county ordinance infringe on the state’s authority to regulate health care.
Democrat Attorney General Torrez contends in the lawsuit that the city and county ordinances misinterpret a 19th-century federal law on the mail and conflict with state law regulating the practice of medicine. He also argues the ordinances violate the state Constitution’s guarantees to equal rights, liberty and privacy which he said are more robust than what’s outlined in the U.S. Constitution.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYISIS
Republicans oppose any efforts by Democrats to protect a woman’s right to choose and to expand woman’s health care rights in the state. Republican lawmakers and candidates are proclaiming Democrats are going too far. They argue that New Mexico voters will support some of the abortion restrictions imposed in other states, such as parental notification for minors.
Governor Lujan Grisham and Democrats on the other hand in general campaigned heavily on safeguarding abortion rights and woman’s reproductive rights. Republicans ignore and are totally out of touch with just how strongly people feel about the issue.
New Mexico Republicans have every intent to do what they can to deprive a woman of their right to choose and to deprive a woman from making her own decision on reproductive rights. Simply put, no person, no candidate, no elected official, no voter and no government has any right telling a woman what she must do when it comes to abortion and what she must do when it comes to her own body.
Democrats in the 2023 legislative session hold a 45-25 majority in the House and a 27-15 edge in the Senate. Democrats would be damn fools not to deliver on their promises to protect a woman’s right to an abortion and access to reproductive health given the attempts by some Republican controlled municipalities and counties in the state to do whatever they can to make abortion illegal or inaccessible to woman.