Democrats target NM's criminal abortion law - Albuquerque Journal

Democrats target NM’s criminal abortion law

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From left, Maryann Maestas of the American Civil Liberties Union, Susan Sattell of the Santa Fe National Organization for Women and about 30 others listen as Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, right, speaks about her proposal to repeal an anti-abortion law. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico would repeal its anti-abortion law – one of just nine of its kind in the country – under legislation Democratic lawmakers plan to pursue in the 2019 session.

The state’s criminal abortion law has been on the books for 50 years, but it’s unenforceable now because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.

Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, said Monday that she has filed legislation for the coming session that would rescind the law, which makes it a crime for an abortion provider to end a woman’s pregnancy, except in narrow circumstances.

Supporters of the bill say the changing composition of the Supreme Court – amid President Donald Trump’s pledge to put “pro-life justices on the court” – underscores the need to immediately change New Mexico’s abortion law.

“We can’t go back to those days when women had to risk their lives just to get health care,” Ferrary said Monday in a news conference.

Her push comes as Democrats prepare to return to the Capitol with renewed political strength. They picked up eight seats in the state House – pushing their advantage to 46-24 over Republicans – and swept every statewide office, including the Governor’s Office.

Democrats also have a majority in the Senate, where they outnumber Republicans 26-16.

Nonetheless, Ferrary’s legislation is expected to draw intense opposition from Republican lawmakers.

House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, said it would be “reckless” to repeal the abortion law without replacing it with some regulations.

“I think it’s a mistake,” he said in an interview. “We have so few restrictions as it is right now.”

The legislative session begins Jan. 15. House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, has said Ferrary’s bill will be a priority.

New Mexico is one of only nine states, Ferrary said, with criminal abortion laws on the books.

Enacted in 1969, the law makes it a felony for an abortion provider to end a women’s pregnancy except in certain circumstances, such as rape, birth defects or grave threats to the woman’s health. The procedure is also limited to hospitals and must be approved in writing by a hospital board.

The Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, says New Mexico doesn’t have any of the major abortion restrictions – such as waiting periods, mandated parental involvement or limitations on publicly funded abortions – that exist in some states.

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