Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Dems in NM weigh legislative response to abortion ruling

Democratic Senators Linda Lopez, center, and Mimi Stewart, both of Albuquerque, listen to comments during a 2019 legislative hearing. They are evaluating what legislation is needed in New Mexico after the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v. calf . (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque)

SANTA FE — Just last year, New Mexico lawmakers repealed a state law making it a crime to end a woman’s pregnancy.

But Democratic legislative leaders say they are now evaluating whether the state should enshrine abortion rights directly in state law, expand protections for health care providers or take other steps to help women — perhaps from out of state — who seek an abortion in New Mexico.

“There’s a lot of anger about what’s happening — to women in particular,” Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said. “I think you’re going to see that play out in the legislative session.”

The ruling could also push the abortion debate to the forefront of New Mexico’s gubernatorial campaign. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is seeking reelection, opposes limits on abortion rights.

Republican Mark Ronchetti said Friday that he would support legislation permitting abortion only in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy and in cases of rape or incest or when the mother’s life is at risk.

For now, legislators say, the Supreme Court’s ruling Friday isn’t expected to affect abortion rights in New Mexico.

State legislators last year — following the election defeat of some anti-abortion Democrats — repealed the state’s 1969 anti-abortion law, which made it a crime to end a pregnancy except in narrow circumstances, such as rape. It had been unenforceable because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Calf.

“The ruling by the Supreme Court doesn’t change what we can provide here in the state of New Mexico,” Senate Majority Whip Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, said Friday. But “we are, of course, more than willing to work with our sisters from other states in this country to see what we can do to support the choices they’re having to make.”

Some discussion, legislators say, has centered on whether lawmakers should enact legislation intended to protect women from out of state who travel to New Mexico for the procedure.

“In New Mexico, our hearts, our clinics and our communities will remain open to those coming here for the care they want and need,” Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla, said.

Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, said “everything is on the table to protect reproductive freedom” in New Mexico.

“I don’t know that we necessarily need to codify Roe,” she said, “both because the old statute was removed and also because of existing case law in New Mexico that protects access to abortion care. That said, I do think there is other legislation related to reproductive health care that needs to be enacted — such as laws addressing barriers to access to reproductive health care, and providing protections for health center providers and workers.”

Republicans — a minority in both legislative chambers — said it’s a shame the Supreme Court decision won’t change much in New Mexico.

The state, they noted, doesn’t have the restrictions found in some states, such as parental notification mandates and waiting periods.

“Tragically, in New Mexico, Planned Parenthood and radical progressives have worked overtime to ensure that nothing will change in response to this historic decision,” Republican Sen. Crystal Diamond of Elephant Butte said.

Campaign issue

Abortion is expected to be an issue in New Mexico’s gubernatorial race and other campaigns. All 70 seats in the state house are also on the ballot.

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Ronchetti, the Republican nominee for governor, said it’s time for a “measured dialogue” on abortion.

“I believe permitting abortion up to 15 weeks and in cases involving rape, incest, and when a mother’s life is at risk is a very reasonable position that most in New Mexico will support regardless of party affiliation,” he said in a written statement. “This will end the barbaric practice of late-term abortions. I will also strongly support policies that provide support to expectant mothers and their unborn children.”

Lujan Grisham, by contrast, described the court ruling as part of a “war on women.”

She has opposed limiting abortion rights and signed last year’s legislation, Senate Bill 10, repeating the criminal abortion statute.

“As the laws in this country change before our very eyes,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement, “I will continue to fight for the right to a safe, legal abortion in New Mexico and stand as a brick wall against those who seek to punish women and their doctors just because they seek the care they need and deserve.”

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