SANTA FE — As nearby states restrict abortion rights, New Mexico lawmakers moved forward Friday with a proposal intended to protect doctors and nurses from out-of-state investigations targeting reproductive and gender-affirming care.
The legislation, Senate Bill 13, won approval 26-16 in the Senate — largely along party lines, with Democrats in favor. It heads next to the state House.
The proposal would prohibit public agencies from releasing information or otherwise cooperating with civil or criminal investigations launched from outside the state into medical providers who engage in “protected health care activity” in New Mexico, such as abortion or gender-affirming care.
Sen. Linda Lopez, an Albuquerque Democrat who presented the bill, said it would help prevent discipline against medical providers who deliver legal health care.
“New Mexico will do everything in its power,” she said, “to protect you and your information from the reach of other states.”
Debate over the bill comes as some states enact abortion bans or restrictions that have led to women crossing state lines for reproductive health care. Texas and Arizona, for example, have laws that prohibit aiding or abetting an abortion.
Republicans raised legal questions about the proposal and the potential for unintended consequences in relationships with other states.
Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca, R-Belen, said the measure would make New Mexico an “island,” result in costly litigation and give the state a radical reputation.
“There’s just a desire to put a message out,” he said, “in my opinion, the wrong message, and, in my opinion, a very expensive message for the state.”
Republican Sen. David Gallegos of Eunice said the proposal — and others touching on abortion — will lead to citizen initiatives to overturn legislative action.
“The people in the state of New Mexico aren’t satisfied with the work we’re doing here,” he said.
Five Democratic senators, all women, jointly sponsored the bill — Linda Lopez and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez of Albuquerque, Nancy Rodriguez of Santa Fe, Brenda McKenna of Corrales and Siah Correa Hemphill of Silver City.
The bill would “ensure no one is criminalized for safe and legal health care,” Sedillo Lopez said.
It’s one of at least three measures touching on abortion and transgender rights advancing this year in the Legislature, where Democrats hold large majorities in both chambers.
Also pending are proposals to prohibit public bodies from interfering with access to reproductive and gender-affirming care, House Bill 7, and expanding protections offered under the Human Rights Act, House Bill 207.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, made abortion rights a centerpiece of her reelection campaign last year. Friday’s legislation is intended to codify in law parts of executive orders she issued.
All Republican members of the Senate voted against Friday’s legislation, in addition to Sen. Pete Campos, a Las Vegas Democrat.
The remaining Democrats voted in favor of the bill.