Demonstrators hold up signs supporting abortion rights on May 3, 2022. . (Photo by Shelby Kleinhans for Source NM)
Democratic lawmakers are continuing their push to get bills passed through the Roundhouse that protect abortion rights. Meanwhile, Republicans keep taking up hours of time to speak against the measures that are likely to pass nonetheless.
There’s a week left in this year’s 60-day session. Hundreds of bills have yet to be heard on the Senate and House floors or are stuck in committees.
Senators passed Senate Bill 13, Reproductive Health Provider Protections, by a 26-16 vote on Friday. The testy, two-hour-long debate was a drastic change of pace from bipartisan cheers senators had about their win in a basketball game against colleagues on the House side on Thursday.
Supporters say the bill will strengthen reproductive rights for providers and patients seeking abortions and gender-affirming health care rights.
“If you seek or provide reproductive or gender-affirming care here in New Mexico, regardless of where you come from, New Mexico will do everything in its power to protect you and your information from the reach of other states,” bill sponsor Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque) said.
The bill’s now halfway through the Legislature. It has to make it through the House before landing on the governor’s desk.
All Senate Republicans voted against the measure. Sen. Pete Campos (D-Las Vegas) was the only Democrat to vote against the bill, just like he did for House Bill 7, another reproductive rights proposal that lawmakers passed and sent to the governor’s desk Friday evening.
Senate Bill 13 would prevent medical providers and patients getting reproductive or gender identity services from being liable for civil or criminal prosecution. This also includes protections against extradition from states that have abortion bans in place.
The legislation also prohibits individuals and entities from sharing information related to that health care to people or public bodies that have an intent to intimidate, harm or punish someone for getting those services, or pursue criminal investigation.
The legislation also tries to prevent out-of-state entities from taking legal action to block or punish someone for getting reproductive or gender-affirming health care services in New Mexico. If that happens, the person trying to get services could sue, under this bill.
Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (D-Albuquerque), another sponsor of the bill, said this came about because of actions Texas took criminalizing reproductive health care services. The neighboring state has strict abortion bans, and multiple women are now suing Texas for the ban that they say put them in a near-death situation.
“It will send a clear message that New Mexico will not participate in other states’ attempts to stigmatize and punish providers, patients or those who support them,” Sedillo Lopez said.
For breaking the rules laid out in the bill, people or organizations could file action in court, with penalties of $10,000 per violation or appropriate relief, if it’s greater. The state attorney general or local district attorneys could also take people or entities that violate this bill to court, with possible civil penalties.
“New Mexico must remain a place where people and families are able to access the health care that they need to be healthy and to thrive,” Sedillo Lopez said.
If the bill isn’t signed, the Department of Health said that it could strain the already limited number of health care providers in the state.
The heat of the debate
Sens. Gregg Schmedes (R-Tijeras), Greg Baca (R-Belen) and David Gallegos (R-Eunice) questioned, at length, the bill’s legislative intent and constitutionality. They also said this could alienate New Mexico from other states and increase lawsuits.
“Are we just protecting state sovereignty, or are we going a little too far?” Schmedes asked.
This bill is related to House Bill 7, which prohibits public entities from discriminating against or interfering with access to reproductive and gender-affirming health care. The Senate heard that bill on Tuesday. It took three hours before lawmakers approved its passage.
On Friday, Schmedes talked for about 10 minutes about amendments he failed to pass on HB 7. He said he wouldn’t try to introduce them again because he knew they wouldn’t pass.
Sen. William Sharer (R-Farmington) didn’t follow his colleague’s lead. He also failed to pass an amendment on House Bill 7 but put forth the exact same change for Senate Bill 13 on Friday. It took up 10 minutes of debate time during his first attempt on Tuesday, and over 40 minutes on Friday before his amendment failed again.
That was the only amendment proposed on Friday. On Tuesday, Republicans proposed and lost on seven amendments for House Bill 7.
Sen. Nancy Rodriguez (D-Santa Fe), another bill sponsor, said these decisions should lie in the hands of those who actually give birth.
“Only we know what it’s like, and no one else can even come close to figuring out what goes on as we’re going through this phase of life,” she said. “So government really should never interfere with those deep personal decisions that we make. I ask that from everyone here today.”
Sen. Daniel Ivey Soto (D-Albuquerque) said, as a man, he defers to women on this subject. Gallegos said it doesn’t make sense that he can’t speak on something because of his gender when the bill itself has to do with gender identity.
“Every time we have this subject, I’m told because I’m male that I should keep my mouth shut on the subject,” he said. “My constituents didn’t elect me to come to the Senate and keep my mouth shut.”
He added that if attacks against him continue on the Senate floor, he’ll file an ethics complaint.
Lt. Gov. Howie Morales had to step in once to calm down the debate when Sen. Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque) expressed outrage over a now-removed tweet that said the GOP is misogynistic and Sen. Crystal Diamond (R-Elephant Butte) makes “stupid comments” as the “#senatebarbie.” Afterwards, Moores and George Muñoz (D-Gallup) said they’d meet whoever tweeted that out to address the disrespectful matter.
The anonymous user deleted their Twitter profile.
Other pieces of legislation are stalled in the Roundhouse that would conflict with Senate Bill 13. Republicans have introduced measures to ban abortions in later stages or entirely, and require parental consent for minors to get these types of health care services.
There are a few other abortion-related bills, too, stuck in Santa Fe. They include a measure that would tack patient care and malpractice requirements onto abortion facilities, and another that would require the Department of Health to license and regulate abortion clinics.
None of that legislation has yet to be heard in a first committee. The bills have a week to get through the entire Roundhouse before they fail.
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