SANTA FE — Legislators pushed forward Friday with a plan to shield doctors and nurses in New Mexico from out-of-state investigations targeting reproductive and gender-affirming care — part of a broader policy package intended to strengthen abortion rights.
The proposal, Senate Bill 13, won approval 38-30 in the state House, sending it on to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who has made defending abortion rights a centerpiece of her administration.
It codifies an executive order issued by Lujan Grisham in June 2022, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, a ruling that opened the door for states to determine their own laws on abortion.
During this year’s 60-day legislative session, the governor has already signed a companion measure, House Bill 7, prohibiting public bodies in New Mexico from interfering with access to abortion or gender-affirming care.
Friday’s proposal centers on action originating beyond state lines. Squeezed between Arizona and Texas — two states that prohibit aiding or abetting abortion — New Mexico increasingly serves patients from elsewhere.
Lujan Grisham said the legislative action on abortion rights is “transformative” given the national political climate.
“New Mexico stood up for science, for women, for LGBTQ families and individuals,” she told reporters.
State Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, said the legislation adopted Friday is designed to thwart out-of-state legal attacks.
“We’re in completely uncharted territory with the types of laws we’re seeing on the books now,” she said as she presented the bill to her colleagues. “That’s why we’re here today — to ensure New Mexico will be a safe space for folks seeking care.”
Republican lawmakers, heavily outnumbered at the Capitol, vigorously contested the proposal at every step, describing it as an inappropriate strategy that would put New Mexico at odds with other states.
“I don’t want New Mexico to be isolated as its own island,” said Rep. John Block, R-Alamogordo.
Under the bill, public agencies would be prohibited 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.
A person harmed by a violation of the law could file a lawsuit seeking damages of at least $10,000 per violation.
The bill also would make it illegal for a third party to transmit information related to a person’s or entity’s abortion or gender-affirming care with the intent to harass, humiliate or intimidate.
Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, said the legislation would abridge free speech rights and expose anti-abortion protesters to legal liability — a contention Romero disputed.
Montoya also argued the bill could weaken oversight of predatory physicians or medical providers who are targeted by other states for legitimate reasons.
“What we’re left to believe here is that every abortion provider is altruistic,” he said, “and I just don’t think we can go that far.”
All Republicans present opposed the bill, and six Democrats voted against it, too.
The House action comes after the Senate passed the bill 26-16 last week.
Democrats at the Roundhouse have pushed this session to strengthen abortion rights following last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, which sent the abortion debate to individual states.
In 2021, Lujan Grisham signed a bill repealing a dormant 1969 state law prohibiting abortion, ensuring it couldn’t be enforced if the Supreme Court overturned federal abortion rights, as it did last year.
The issue has shaken up the political composition of the Legislature. It was a key issue in Democratic primary campaigns in 2020, when a host of anti-abortion Democrats lost their Senate seats, clearing the way for the 2021 measure.