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Democrats block GOP abortion bill effort

SANTA FE – The Democratic-controlled Senate on Tuesday rejected a move by Republicans to keep two abortion bills out of a committee they say will bury the legislation.

The bills – which have passed the House – would require parents to be notified when their minor daughters seek abortions, and would ban late-term abortions.

Senate Republicans hoped they could pick up enough Democratic votes to pass the bills if the full Senate were voting.

Sen. Peter Wirth

Sen. Peter Wirth.

Sen. William Sharer

Sen. William Sharer.

But Republicans said the parental notification bill would “never see the light of day” if it went first to the Public Affairs Committee, which historically has opposed anti-abortion legislation.

“This particular bill is life or death,” said Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington. “Is the committee system more sacred than life itself?”

Sharer tried to get the Senate to skip the referrals to Public Affairs and the Judiciary Committee and instead allow the parental notification legislation to be considered by the entire Senate.

When that failed, he tried to get the bill referred instead to the Corporations Committee.

Both motions were rejected on party-line votes, with 17 Republicans voting for them and 25 Democrats against.

Sharer then tried to get the late-term abortion ban sent instead to the Finance Committee. That also failed, with 17 Republicans and Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, voting for it.

Democrats said the committee process is important to the Senate’s operations, that it should be upheld, and that bypassing it would eliminate the expertise the committees provide.

“I really think we as a body need to stick to what makes this institution special … the fact we do work together, and follow the rules,” said Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe.

But Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said there are times “that all of us need to be involved in the process, and this is certainly it.”

House Bill 390, the late-term abortion ban, and House Bill 391, the parental notification bill, were referred to Public Affairs and Judiciary.