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Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Rape Birth Control Bill Passes House

By Kate Nash
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE Sexual assault victims could get access to emergency contraceptives at New Mexico hospitals under a bill approved Monday by the House.
    The measure, (HB 119 Judiciary Committee substitute), would mean emergency room personnel would have to inform victims that the contraceptives are available.
    Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, is sponsoring the measure.
    She said a recent survey of in-state hospitals showed that about half don't provide rape victims the option of taking a superdose of contraceptives to prevent unintended pregnancies.
    More than 1,100 women reported being raped in New Mexico in 2001, Stewart said.
    "We do want to stop any victim at any age from being forced to have a pregnancy that is a result of rape," she said.
    House members voted 45-16 in favor of the measure. Several representatives spoke out against the idea, including Rep. Dan Foley, R-Roswell.
    He said it's possible that women who fear a pregnancy could claim they have been sexually assaulted in order to get the emergency contraceptives.
    "You could continue to come back every week to get this drug," Foley said.
    Stewart said teens and other women have plenty of other places to seek emergency contraceptives.
    Rep. Earlene Roberts, R-Lovington, said she worried about possible side effects from the drug, including blood clots.
    Stewart said part of the information that would be provided at hospitals would include details on side effects.
    The bill now goes to the Senate.