SANTA FE – Democrats in the state House on Thursday blocked Republican efforts to pass a law requiring doctors to provide medical care if an infant is born alive during an attempted abortion.
The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee heard emotional testimony and debate for about two hours – as supporters of the legislation described the horrors of botched abortions and the killing of infants.
But in the end, the committee’s three Democrats voted to table the bill, preventing it from proceeding through the Legislature.
Opponents of the bill said that laws and medical standards are already in place covering how to handle abortion and other procedures.
Dr. Sandra Penn, a physician for more than 30 years, urged the committee to avoid “political interference” in medical care.
“This bill would add the possibility of criminalizing a medical procedure,” she said, and inject fear into a situation “when it should not be there.”
House Bill 37 is sponsored by four Republican representatives – Minority Whip Rod Montoya of Farmington, David Gallegos of Eunice, Rick Little of Chaparral and Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo.
The bill would require physicians attempting to perform an abortion to try to preserve the life and health of the baby if he or she is born alive.
It would be a first-degree felony to intentionally kill a “born alive infant.”
Montoya said the proposal was intended to fill a gap in New Mexico law.
“This is not an abortion bill,” Montoya said. “This is a human rights bill for infants who are born alive – whether it’s following an abortion, a miscarriage or a natural birth.”
Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, a Republican, also testified in favor of the bill.
“We have an obligation to stand up and speak out for the most vulnerable among us,” he said.
The bill was tabled on a 3-2 party-line vote.
The committee chairman, Democrat Eliseo Alcon of Milan, adjourned the hearing before two other abortion bills and an effort to reinstate the death penalty came up. He noted that the House was due to begin a floor session and that 45 minutes wasn’t enough time to finish the committee agenda.