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NM abortion law targeted for repeal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When legislators convene at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe on Jan. 15 for the 2019 session, they will be met by a diverse crowd of people and organizations demanding that they repeal an “antiquated and obscure” state law that bans abortions.

A coalition of organizations led by the Party for Socialism and Liberation and ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) held a news conference Wednesday to announce the groups’ planned Roundhouse rally next month to put legislators on notice.

“Politicians who say they are for women’s rights will have a chance to stand with women; those who got elected saying they cared about women’s rights will have a chance to prove it,” said Candice Yanez, a teacher and organizer for PSL in New Mexico.

“Politicians won’t be able to weasel out of it anymore. If they don’t speak up and vote to repeal the abortion ban, everyone will know and there will be a political cost to pay,” she said.

The 1969 New Mexico statute made it a felony for an abortion provider to terminate a pregnancy, with exceptions for rape, birth defects and serious threats to a woman’s health. The law became moot and unenforceable since a landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that affirmed a woman’s legal right to access to a safe abortion, and disallowed many state and federal restrictions on abortions.

In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has seen the confirmation of more conservative justices and the contentious confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh has made the overturning of Roe v. Wade a realistic possibility, Yanez said.

“That would leave individual states to decide whether abortion is legal or not” and if the current state law remains on the books, “the criminalization of abortion is at our doorstep,” she said.

What’s going on now is nothing less than “a war being waged against women’s rights,” said Marissa Elyse Sanchez, a member of PSL and the southwest regional coordinator for ANSWER. More than anyone else, that war is affecting women of color and poor women, particularly women in rural areas, “so it’s also a racist war,” she said.

State Rep. Joanne Ferrary of Las Cruces has said she will introduce legislation to repeal the state’s abortion ban law. The repeal also has the support of Democratic Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham, Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf and Democratic Senate majority leader Peter Wirth.

New Mexico is just one of nine states with pre-Roe v. Wade abortion bans still on their books, Yanez said.

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