Hands Off New Mexico’s Abortion Rights Laws

Murphy, from left, Joyce Bartley, Eileen Murphy and Geraldine Murphy, all of Albuquerque, applaud speakers Friday during a 40th anniversary celebration of Roe v. Wade in the State Capitol rotunda. Certain bills now before the Legislature seek to modify access to abortion, which was afforded under the landmark case. (GREG SORBER/JOURNAL)

It’s curious how often the people who are against the government laying a hand on their guns are the same people who want the government to put its hands all over our lady parts.

New Mexico appears to have mostly bucked this odd incongruity, maintaining its wild West gun-loving ways while staying relatively relaxed on abortion and birth control issues. Recently, for instance, the national SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective rated New Mexico No. 1 in the nation for providing equal access to sexual and reproductive health services.

But as the Legislature rolls along, two female lawmakers are trying to topple New Mexico from that lofty perch.

Rep. Cathrynn Brown, a Republican from Carlsbad and an A-rated lawmaker as deemed by the National Rifle Association, made national news last week when she introduced House Bill 206, which, if passed, would force rape victims to carry a resulting pregnancy to term or be charged with tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony, if they abort.

The “evidence,” in this case, is the fetus.

Brown’s bill was quickly picked up by the national media, including Huffington Post, USA Today, Slate, Mother Jones and even Comedy Central, and was shared across social media, where Brown was excoriated for her wacky insensitivity to rape victims.

Brown’s office later issued a statement explaining that the bill was misinterpreted and that the intended target of the tampering charge is the rapist, not the victim. The bill has been rewritten to clarify this.

But another bill continues to wind its way through the Roundhouse that is no less insidious if not as spectacularly so.

House Bill 122, also known as the Woman’s Right To Know Act, would require a woman to view a play-by-play obstetric ultrasound and listen to the heartbeat of the unborn child she is preparing to abort.

The ultrasound — which could include the more invasive transvaginal kind if the woman and her physician so desired — would require the physician to serve as a uterine tour guide, pointing out to the woman all the organs and limbs the fetus has developed and the dimensions of each.

But here’s a tiny kindness: Neither the woman nor the physician would be penalized if the woman chose to avert her eyes or plug her ears during the gruesome experience.

The bill would also require that the woman be told 24 hours in advance about the medical risks — which the bill says includes a higher rate of breast cancer, a statement many medical experts say is untrue — and that she may be eligible to receive prenatal care, childbirth and neonatal care benefits (from the government) and financial support from the baby’s daddy.

In addition, the Women’s Right to Know Act would require the state Department of Health to collect a dizzying amount of data from each abortion recipient and maintain a website that provides information on public and private agencies that can assist a woman through pregnancy and childbirth or, conversely, adoption.

The site would also include “realistic” images of fetuses from conception to birth, in two-week increments. Those images would also include “objective” information on the fetus’s chances of survival outside the womb, the medical risks of aborting or continuing the pregnancy at each stage and the possible detrimental medical and psychological effects of abortion.

Failing to abide by the act could result in felony charges and civil penalties.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Nora Espinoza, a Roswell Republican who recently introduced the controversial House Bill 114, which would make it a felony to enforce federal gun laws in New Mexico.

The Woman’s Right to Know Act was conceived by the folks at National Right to Life and has been enacted in other states, said Dauneen Dolce, executive director of the New Mexico chapter.

Dolce contends the bill simply seeks to provide information to the woman, not toss cruel hurdles in her way.

“Seventy percent of women who walk in abortion clinics don’t want to be there, but they don’t know what the alternatives are,” she said. “Women should be informed.”

But Martha Edmands, public affairs manager for Planned Parenthood of New Mexico, said the bill assumes women are too stupid to have educated themselves on information that is readily available.

“Sixty percent of women who have abortions are already mothers, so it’s not like they don’t understand what pregnancy means and what terminating that pregnancy means,” she said. “This bill is a huge intrusion into the confidential relationship with a woman and her doctor.”

Ultrasounds are already part of the abortion process, and the woman already has the discretion on whether or not to view the screen, Edmands said.

Monitoring the fetal heart rate, if one is present at all, has no medical relevance to the procedure, she added.

“It’s just cruel,” she said.

It’s also condescending, intimidating and a clumsy attempt at circumventing the law of the land that keeps abortion legal — just as owning a gun, for the most part, remains legal.

I suspect gun devotees will continue to fight for their right to bear arms. So, too, will women who believe their right to choose is just as sacrosanct, if not more so. As these wars rage on, we should at least be honest about our intentions.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, jkrueger@abqjournal.com or follow her on Twitter@jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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