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House passes abortion-rights bill

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Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces announces her proposal in December to repeal a criminal abortion statute. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – The state House pushed ahead late Wednesday with a bill that would repeal New Mexico’s anti-abortion law – one of just eight of its kind left in the country.

The proposal, passed 40-29, now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The legislation aims to remove a state law that makes it a crime to end a woman’s pregnancy, except in certain circumstances, such as rape.

The statute is largely unenforceable now because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

“It simply removes an antiquated law that criminalizes health care,” said Rep. Joanne Ferrary, a Las Cruces Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill.

Opponents, in turn, said the measure would go too far – that it would weaken safeguards that ensure medical providers can avoid participating in an abortion as a matter of conscience. They also assailed New Mexico as the late-term abortion capital of the country and said more restrictions, not fewer, are needed.

“Doctors in New Mexico don’t want to be forced to do this … to do something that sickens them,” House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, said.

Ferrary and other supporters argued repeatedly that no one would be forced to perform abortions. State and federal laws already ensure medical providers can abstain from procedures they object to, except in emergencies, she said.

In her State of the State address, newly elected Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham pushed for passage of the measure, House Bill 51.

It cleared the House largely along party lines after an emotional, three-hour debate.

Six Democrats crossed party lines to vote against the bill – Anthony Allison of Fruitland, Doreen Wonda Johnson of Church Rock, Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup, Patricio Ruiloba of Albuquerque, Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde and Candie Sweetser of Deming.

Every Republican voted against the bill, except for Paul Bandy of Aztec, who was excused.

The proposal now heads to the Senate with 38 days left in the session. Democrats hold a 26-16 majority in that chamber.

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