Despite GOP pushback, bill protecting reproductive, gender-affirming health care passes Roundhouse

Hundreds of bills sit unheard as Republican men debate for hours on abortion-related legislation that now moves to the governor

By: - March 18, 2023 8:00 am

N.M. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks before a rally of hundreds supporting abortion rights following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to upend federal protections for abortion rights on Friday, June 24, 2022.

Republican men took over an hour and a half on the second-to-last day of the 60-day New Mexico legislative session in an effort to block or change protective reproductive health care legislation. 

Rep. Rod Montoya (R-Farmington) took part in a 110-minute debate, which eventually failed to amend Senate Bill 13, in an effort to stall protections for reproductive health services in the state.

The bill was passed by a 38-30 vote and will now go to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is expected to sign it into law. All Republicans along with six Democrats voted against the measure.

SB 13 would protect medical providers and patients getting reproductive or gender-affirming health care.

Democrats against SB 13

The six Democratic representatives who voted against the provider and patient protections are Reps. Anthony Allison (Fruitland), Ambrose Castellano (Serrafina), Harry Garcia (Grants), Wonda Johnson (Rehoboth), Patricia Lundstrom (Gallup) and Joseph Sanchez (Alcalde).

Rep. Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe) explained the bill to the House of Representatives on Friday. 

Under this bill, providers and patients would be protected from extradition and civil or criminal prosecution. Their health care information would also be protected.

“The point of this is to ensure that all parties involved do not have to risk any sort of fear of lawsuit, of criminalized activity,” Romero said. “That they’re protected.”

She said this bill is coming forward after other states have put forth strict anti-abortion laws. People have been fleeing to New Mexico for reproductive health care since Texas enacted severe bans on abortion care that affect patients, providers and anyone who helps them.

Romero said there are also hundreds of anti-trans pieces of legislation that have been introduced in other states. Nine bills have already been signed into law. Romero said New Mexico can move in the opposite direction with this bill.

“In New Mexico, we have the opportunity now to really affirmatively care for our citizens, affirmatively care for those folks that are seeking health care, seeking to be themselves,” she said.

Similar to other legislative debates on bills that involve abortion care, Republicans talked at length about how they don’t support the bill or details in it. GOP male lawmakers took up a lot of allocated time speaking against the bill.

Montoya, the Republican from Farmington, ignited a long debate. Many female lawmakers on the other side of the aisle repeatedly rose up to speak against his points, sometimes calling them offensive.

New Mexico poised to strengthen state Human Rights Act

Democrats control the House by a large majority, giving the bill large support to pass.

Montoya along with other Republicans asked multiple questions about the legality of the bill. 

Romero repeated that this proposed law would only apply in New Mexico and to those engaging in activities in the state. Because New Mexico is a sovereign state, she said, it can have its own laws that preside over its own territory.

“Any protected activity happening here that is legal is not a crime,” she said. “It’s not a crime. It’s not illegal. And therefore we are affirmatively protecting that against other states from coming after people in our state who are protected by our laws.”

At one point, after Montoya controlled the discussion for half an hour, House Speaker Javier Martinez (D-Albuquerque) asked Montoya if he would move his first proposed amendment. 

Montoya said no, he wanted to keep discussing the proposal before going to that amendment that would take even more discussion. 

“I want to continue my line of questioning,” Montoya said.

After introducing the amendment and debating it with other lawmakers for half an hour, Montoya withdrew it just to introduce a similar one with some language changes. The debate for that went on for another 40 minutes.

While Montoya continued to talk, more than a hundred other bills sat on the House schedule on Friday, waiting to be heard before the session ended at noon on Saturday. 

As his debate almost rolled past the two-hour mark, legislation that would protect the environment, boost mental health resources or support Native American communities sat unheard.

After the full debate stretched past the three-hour mark, lawmakers voted not to let it go on any further. They also voted to table Montoya’s amendment that would strike parts of the bill regarding the protection of information related to health care services.

Montoya continued to fight for a chance to speak, going back and forth with Martinez on his right to address the body after his amendment was tabled. Martinez repeatedly denied his request since the debate had ended.

“We’ve taken more than three hours on this single bill and probably a good 45 minutes on the amendment,” Martinez said.


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Megan Gleason
Megan Gleason

Megan Gleason is a journalist based in Albuquerque. She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico, where she served as the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. Other work has appeared under the New Mexico Press Association as well as in the Independent, Gallup Sun and Silver City Daily Press.