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Veto Fuels Abortion Debate

By Trip Jennings
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE— Gov. Bill Richardson has been pulled into the abortion debate because of legislation he vetoed late last week.
    The legislation would have required New Mexico's medical institutions to offer a woman whose child was stillborn a certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth.
    New Mexico already requires a report of a stillborn infant, but not a birth certificate.
    Supporters called the legislation a way to honor a pregnant woman's experience as a mother, even if her pregnancy ended with a stillborn child.
    Opponents said the bill offered anti-abortion advocates a foothold in the law by conferring personhood on a dead infant.
    In his veto message, Richardson never touched on the abortion debate but said the legislation could lead to "confusion and potential fraud" because it creates a new category of births" and requires production of two documents for a single event.
    Richardson's office would not comment on the debate Tuesday.
    "He has managed to alienate hundreds of thousands of people ... with one really, really, really bad move. That's not good for a presidential candidate," said Joanne Cacciatore of MISS Foundation, which has pushed similar bills in other states.
    More than a dozen states have adopted similar legislation and California is currently considering it, Cacciatore said.
    Abortion-choice advocates said that while the New Mexico legislation itself wasn't their concern they worried about its potential consequences.
    "I don't see a nefarious intent," said Martha Edmands, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of New Mexico. "But we had concerns that there might be consequences down the road— that it might conflict with the rights to a legal abortion in New Mexico."
    The organization advised the governor's office to veto the legislation.
    The bill's sponsor, Sen. Leonard Lee Rawson, R-Las Cruces, said Richardson's advisers did not serve Richardson well because it was just legislation to help grieving mothers.
    "His advisers tried to tell him it was an abortion issue. It's unfortunate that this advisers were so misinformed," Rawson said.


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