New Mexico House Advances Bill to Repeal Existing, Unenforced Law Criminalizing Abortion

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SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico House of Representatives advanced a bill on Wednesday that would repeal unenforced state law that makes it a crime to perform an abortion unless the procedure is a “justified medical termination.” The move has deeply concerned pro-life residents, who state that it would not only retain the status quo of allowing third trimester abortion in New Mexico, but would also remove conscience protections for medical professionals who object to assisting with abortions.

House Bill 51, also known as “Decriminalize Abortion,” simply reads, “Sections 30-5-1 through 30-5-3 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1969, Chapter 67, Sections 1 through 3) are repealed.” It refers to the criminal abortion statutes that were passed in 1969, and have been unenforced since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade.

“Criminal abortion consists of administering to any pregnant woman any medicine, drug or other substance, or using any method or means whereby an untimely termination of her pregnancy is produced, or attempted to be produced, with the intent to destroy the fetus, and the termination is not a justified medical termination,” the current law reads in part.

If the law were enforced, those who perform an abortion on a woman for a reason other than that which is deemed legally “justified” would be been charged with a fourth-degree felony. A “justified medical termination” under the law pertains to cases where the pregnancy is deemed a threat to the life or “physical or mental health of the woman,” or if the baby had a serious “physical or mental defect,” or if the child was conceived in rape or incest.

There is no gestational limit in the statutes as to when those “justified” cases become illegal.

Not only would abortion no longer be a crime in the state under HB 51, but it would additionally remove Section 2 of the criminal abortion statute, which pertains to “persons and institutions exempt” from performing abortions.

“This article does not require a hospital to admit any patient for the purposes of performing an abortion, nor is any hospital required to create a special hospital board,” the current law reads.

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“A person who is a member of, or associated with, the staff of a hospital, or any employee of a hospital, in which a justified medical termination has been authorized and who objects to the justified medical termination on moral or religious grounds shall not be required to participate in medical procedures which will result in the termination of pregnancy, and the refusal of any such person to participate shall not form the basis of any disciplinary or other recriminatory action against such person,” it states.

Read the current state law in full here. 

The New Mexico Alliance for Life has expressed opposition to the effort to repeal the statutes, calling HB 51 “the most extreme bill in the nation” because of its effect of retaining third-trimester abortions and removing conscience protections for those who would opt-out.

“This bill is a Trojan horse backed by the national abortion lobby in order to establish abortion as a human right by removing so-called ‘religious refusals’ and turn every hospital, clinic and doctor’s office into an abortion clinic or referral center,” Elisa Martinez, the executive director of New Mexico Alliance for Life, told Fox News.

The organization has also launched a petition to stop the measure from moving forward in the Senate. It passed the House on Wednesday 40-29, with every Republican in the House voting against the measure. Six Democrats also voted no.

“HB-51 does not protect women. HB 51 keeps dangerous late-term abortions, up to birth, legal for any reason. The risk of death or serious injury to women increases to 89X in abortions after 5 months,” the petition reads in part.

“HB-51 does not protect doctors. HB 51 strips away the only explicit conscience protection for doctors and other medical professionals that protect them from being forced to participate in abortions,” it states.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan has said that she would sign the repeal if passed.

While a number of states, such as New York, Vermont, Virginia and New Mexico, have taken steps to ensure that abortion remains legal in their jurisdiction should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, bills have been presented in several other states to outlaw abortion altogether.

As previously reported, lawmakers in Idaho, Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Indiana filed legislation for the 2019 session calling for the protection of the unborn from the moment of conception, and the prosecution of abortion as murder.

“Any federal statute, regulation, executive order or court decision which purports to supersede, stay or overrule this [bill] is in violation of the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma and the Constitution of the United States of America and is therefore void,” Senate Bill 13, filed by Sen. Joseph Silk, R-Broken Bow, declares.

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