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Abortion-rights bill heads to House floor

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Rep. Deborah Armstrong

SANTA FE – A proposal to repeal a 1969 anti-abortion law in New Mexico is on its way to the House floor after passing a critical committee Friday.

The legislation, House Bill 51, targets a state law that makes it a crime to end a woman’s pregnancy, except in certain circumstances. The statute is largely unenforceable now because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

Supporters said repealing the law is important because of the changing composition of the Supreme Court. President Donald Trump has pledged to appoint “pro-life justices.”

“It’s up to women to decide their health care and not for us as politicians or the government,” said Rep. Deborah Armstrong, an Albuquerque Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill.

Opponents turned out in force – so many, in fact, that they couldn’t all fit in the committee room. They spoke against late-term abortions and said New Mexico needs more, not less, regulation of abortion.

“A life of a child at 6 months or at 7 months – certainly at 8 or 9 months – is a life worth protecting and should not be discarded in a manner that we” prohibit for a dog or cat, said House Minority Leader James Townsend, R-Artesia. “That’s just wrong.”

The measure passed the House Judiciary Committee on a 10-4 vote along party lines.

The bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Reps. Joanne Ferrary of Las Cruces, Georgene Louis of Albuquerque, Andrea Romero of Santa Fe and Armstrong, along with Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque.

House Judiciary Chairwoman Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, limited each side’s testimony to about an hour, though supporters used only about half their time. She said she accepted written comments from people outside who wanted to provide them.

House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said a larger room wasn’t available. The House floor itself couldn’t be used because of a joint session of both chambers that took place immediately before the committee meeting, he said.

New Mexico’s criminal abortion law makes it a felony 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.


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