Senate approves bill blocking local anti-abortion ordinances after emotional debate - Albuquerque Journal

Senate approves bill blocking local anti-abortion ordinances after emotional debate

Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, hugs Marshall Martinez, the executive director of Equality New Mexico, after the Senate voted 23-15 on Tuesday to approve a bill dealing with abortion and gender-affirming health care. The legislation, House Bill 7, was approved after a lengthy debate during which majority Democrats voted down a string of GOP-backed amendments. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

SANTA FE — A bill that would ban New Mexico counties, cities and other local bodies from denying or restricting access to abortion, other reproductive services and gender-affirming care is on the brink of heading to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk for final approval.

The Senate voted 23-15 to approve the measure on Tuesday, after a nearly three-hour debate that featured the reading of Bible verses, a comparison of abortion to the Holocaust and several senators speaking about their own experiences.

Backers said the legislation, House Bill 7, would ensure local governments could not interfere with women’s access to reproductive care, after several counties and cities in eastern New Mexico recently adopted anti-abortion ordinances.

“I want to make sure that every New Mexican has the same access to health care that I’ve had,” said Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, who sponsored the bill on the Senate floor.

In response to questions, she also said the measure would not require health care practitioners to provide an abortion and would also not compel landowners with listed property to sell parcels to abortion clinic operators.

However, Senate Republicans described the bill as immoral and proposed a string of amendments seeking to require a women to get an ultrasound before an abortion, mandate parental consent before a minor could get an abortion and remove a provision allowing for plaintiffs who file successful lawsuits under the proposed law to collect attorney’s fees.

At one point, Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, read from the Bible and suggested the bill as written could allow for infanticide.

“They need love,” Sharer said of fetuses and newborn babies. “They don’t need a needle with some kind of poison.”

But those proposed amendments were all voted down by majority Senate Democrats, largely on party-line votes.

The final vote to approve the bill largely broke down along party lines, too, as Sen. Pete Campos of Las Vegas was the lone Democrat to join Senate Republicans in voting against the legislation.

The debate was emotional and personal at times, with Sen. Carrie Hamblen, D-Las Cruces, sharing her experience of coming to terms with her sexual orientation as a lesbian and other senators talking about their children.

It also got testy after Sen. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, compared the number of abortions performed in New Mexico to the number of individuals killed during the Holocaust.

That prompted a retort from Duhigg, who said, “It is really offensive when folks trot out the Holocaust to make a political point.”

This year’s debate comes two years after Lujan Grisham signed a bill repealing a long-dormant New Mexico abortion ban.

That 1969 law could have been invoked a year later, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

While Texas and some other neighboring states have restricted abortion in the wake of the ruling, top Democratic officials in New Mexico have vowed to ensure the procedure remains legal statewide.

In January, Attorney General Raúl Torrez asked the Supreme Court to intervene after the cities of Hobbs, Clovis and Eunice, along with Lea and Roosevelt counties, enacted local abortion restrictions, saying the ordinances overstepped the local governments’ authority.

Before that, Lujan Grisham issues an executive order shielding abortion providers and those traveling to New Mexico to get an abortion from arrest warrants and other legal repercussions.

During Tuesday’s debate, Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, accused Sharer of spreading misinformation during his attempt to remove the word “perinatal”from the bill.

She also said the bill would codify protections for women and transgender individuals by ensuring they are able to obtain vital health care services.

“It will make New Mexico the safe haven that it should be,” Sedillo Lopez said.

The legislation already passed the House on a 38-31 vote last month.

However, it was amended in a Senate committee before Tuesday’s floor vote, which means it must go back to the House for final approval before advancing to the governor’s desk.

If the House refuses to go along with the Senate’s changes, it would set up a legislative conference committee in which designees from both chambers would meet to try to hammer out a compromise.

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