Governor signs bill repealing abortion ban

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs into law Friday a bill authorizing $200 million in grants for small businesses statewide. The governor also signed separate legislation repealing a long-dormant New Mexico abortion ban. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday signed a bill repealing a long-dormant New Mexico abortion ban, delivering a victory to advocates who had pushed for years to scrap the law that criminalized abortion in most circumstances.

The Democratic governor, who said last year New Mexico’s abortion ban would be “gone” as soon as there were enough votes in the Senate to pass a repeal measure, described the bill’s passage as a triumph over misinformation and fear-mongering.

“A woman has the right to make decisions about her own body,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “Anyone who seeks to violate bodily integrity, or to criminalize womanhood, is in the business of dehumanization.”

The bill signed by the governor, Senate Bill 10, passed the Senate via a 25-17 vote on Feb. 11 and then cleared the House on a 40-30 vote about a week later.

It triggered passionate debate among lawmakers over female autonomy, unborn children and legal protections for medical providers.

Critics of the bill argued it would cause an exodus of New Mexico health care workers, as the targeted ban included a “conscience clause” that allowed doctors and nurses to decline to participate in an abortion procedure if they had moral objections.

Sen. Crystal Diamond, R-Elephant Butte, said the bill’s passage was a win for abortion providers – not for women.

“With the stroke of her pen, the governor has weakened standards of care for women, stripped conscience protections for medical professionals and given the abortion industry unchecked power to operate under the radar in our state,” Diamond said Friday.

But supporters pushed back against the claim, pointing out other medical conscience protections in state and federal law will remain in place. In addition, advocates that lobbied for the abortion ban to be removed from the state’s books over the last four years described the targeted statute as a remnant of a more sexist era.

“Repealing antiquated laws to reflect the time and space we live in now was long overdue,” said Nicole Martin, a co-founder of Indigenous Women Rising, a progressive group that worked with other groups to rally support for the repeal legislation.

1973 Roe v. Wade ruling

New Mexico’s soon-to-be-repealed abortion law is largely unenforceable now because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

However, changes to the Supreme Court’s makeup during the tenure of former President Donald Trump have raised questions about whether that ruling might be partially or fully overturned in the coming months.

Were it to be enforceable, the state’s statute would have made it a crime to end a woman’s pregnancy except in certain circumstances, such as rape and incest.

This year’s passage of the abortion ban repeal came after five Senate Democrats who had opposed the 2019 legislation were ousted in last year’s election cycle. Challengers in several of those races made abortion a top issue in their campaigns.

Just two Senate Democrats ended up voting against this year’s bill – Sens. Pete Campos of Las Vegas and George Muñoz of Gallup.

With Lujan Grisham’s signature, the 1969 law will be officially removed from the state’s books June 18.

“Equality for all, equal justice and equal treatment – that’s the standard,” Lujan Grisham said after signing the bill Friday. “And I’m proud to lead a state that today moved one step closer to that standard.”

Pandemic relief signed

The governor also signed into law Friday a pandemic relief measure, House Bill 11, that authorizes $200 million in small business loans. Businesses that qualify for the program – in part by having no more than 75 employees – will be able to get up to $100,000 in funding.

The governor had until Saturday to act on both bills, which are just the second and third measures passed by the Legislature during the ongoing 60-day session.

A separate pandemic recovery bill providing $600 rebates to low-income workers and enacting a four-month tax holiday for restaurants and breweries is also on its way to Lujan Grisham’s desk for final approval after being approved Wednesday by the House.

In all, lawmakers have advanced bills authorizing about $400 million in state spending on pandemic relief initiatives during this year’s session, which ends March 20.

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