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House panel rejects abortion notification law

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A House committee on Saturday narrowly rejected a proposal that would have required parental notification before a minor could get an abortion in New Mexico.

The panel also blocked a measure that sought to reinstate the death penalty in some circumstances – a priority of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

Both bills fell on 3-2 votes, with Democrats opposed to the legislation voting to table the proposals.

The action came in an emotional, four-hour hearing before the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee.

Dozens of people on both sides of the abortion debate turned out to testify.

Supporters of the parental notification law raised the possibility that girls abused by adult men would be pressured to get an abortion without a parent’s knowledge. And they said middle school-age children, in particular, aren’t equipped to make serious medical decisions.

Opponents, in turn, said teenagers may turn to unsafe abortion options if they’re forced to tell a parent, especially if they don’t have a safe family situation. And the state shouldn’t legislate family communication, they said.

“Let us give the best care,” said Dr. Sandra Penn, a physician for more than 30 years. “The Legislature is not the best place to make individual medical decisions.”

Republicans blasted Democrats for rejecting the bills, suggesting they couldn’t get a fair hearing in what one called the “killing committee” for House legislation.

“Regardless of how anyone feels about abortion, New Mexico should prioritize our children’s safety and the need for more, not less, parental involvement,” said Rep. Ricky Little, a Chaparral Republican and co-sponsor of the legislation.

House Bill 56 would require notifying a parent or guardian at least 48 hours before an abortion is performed on a minor. There would be exceptions if the physician believed the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest. The doctor would also have to notify the state Children, Youth and Families Department of the potential abuse or neglect.

A minor could also file a petition in court to waive the notification requirement.

Opponents described the exceptions as impractical and time-consuming.

“There is a mountain of evidence that the so-called judicial bypass option in this bill has been shown to be inefficient, daunting and emotionally damaging,” said Erin Armstrong, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the daughter of Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque.

The bill was co-sponsored by Little and Republicans Reps. Rod Montoya of Farmington and David Gallegos of Eunice.

“This is a human rights bill,” Montoya said. “These girls deserve to be protected, and not protecting them – not protecting them – is a dereliction of duty.”

The committee also rejected a proposal to reinstate the death penalty. House Bill 155 was co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Monica Youngblood of Albuquerque and Greg Nibert of Roswell.

The measure would have allowed the death penalty for adults who kill children, law enforcement officers or corrections workers.

The committee voted 3-2 to table both bills – a procedure that keeps them from advancing further, unless committee members reconsider.

Voting to table in both cases were Democrats Eliseo Alcón of Milan, Deborah Armstrong of Albuquerque and Patricia Roybal Caballero of Albuquerque.

Against the tabling motions were Republican Reps. Youngblood and Bob Wooley of Roswell.

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