Se­nate blocks re­peal of 1969 abor­tion ban

8 Democrats join all Repub­li­cans in vot­ing against mea­sure

Albuquerque Journal - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAN MCKAY JOUR­NAL CAPI­TOL BUREAU

SANTA FE — New Mex­ico law­mak­ers on Thurs­day re­jected a pro­posal that would have re­pealed the state’s 1969 anti-abor­tion law — an is­sue that emerged as one of the most emo­tional of the ses­sion.

The leg­is­la­tion, backed by Gov. Michelle Lu­jan Gr­isham, failed on a 24-18 vote af­ter a brisk de­bate on the Se­nate floor.

Eight Democrats joined all 16 Repub­li­cans in vot­ing against it.

A few law­mak­ers shared in­tensely per­sonal sto­ries — speak­ing about mis­car­riage, grief,

re­li­gion and the sanc­tity of life — dur­ing speeches on the Se­nate floor.

The leg­is­la­tion, House Bill 51, sought to re­peal a law that makes it a crime to end a woman’s preg­nancy, ex­cept in cer­tain cir­cum­stances, such as rape.

The statute is largely un­en­force­able now be­cause of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 de­ci­sion in Roe v. Wade, but sup­port­ers said they fear the court will re­visit the land­mark abor­tion de­ci­sion.

The is­sue di­vided Democrats in the Se­nate. Sen. Gabriel Ramos, a Sil­ver City Demo­crat ap­pointed to fill a va­cancy in the Se­nate ear­lier this year, cited his re­li­gious be­liefs and the Catholic Church be­fore vot­ing against the bill.

“This is one of the tough­est de­ci­sions any of us will ever have to make,” he said as se­na­tors pre­pared to vote. “I stand uni­fied against leg­is­la­tion that weak­ens the de­fense of life and threat­ens the dig­nity of the hu­man be­ing.”

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Whip Mimi Ste­wart, an Al­bu­querque Demo­crat who sup­ported the bill, said she twice en­dured mis­car­riages be­cause of a med­i­cal con­di­tion. Women should be able to choose for them­selves, she said.

“These are pri­vate de­ci­sions made by women un­der un­usual cir­cum­stances,” Ste­wart said. “It’s cru­cial that we do not crim­i­nal­ize doc­tors, nurses or women for these pro­ce­dures.”

The leg­is­la­tion set off hours of emo­tional de­bate in the Leg­is­la­ture this ses­sion. Sup­port­ers and op­po­nents some­times tes­ti­fied through tears as they spoke about the pro­posal in com­mit­tee hear­ings.

The pro­posal passed the House last month 40-29.

The leg­is­la­tion tar­geted a law that’s one of just eight of its kind left in the coun­try.

Sup­port­ers said the re­peal was im­por­tant be­cause of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s pledge to ap­point anti-abor­tion jus­tices to the Supreme Court.

In her State of the State ad­dress, newly elected Demo­cratic Gov. Lu­jan Gr­isham pushed for pas­sage of the mea­sure.

Lu­jan Gr­isham said she was dis­ap­pointed in the vote.

“This old, out­dated statute crim­i­nal­iz­ing health care providers is an em­bar­rass­ment,” she said in a state­ment posted to Twit­ter. “That re­mov­ing it was even a de­bate, much less a dif­fi­cult vote for some se­na­tors, is in­ex­pli­ca­ble to me.”

Democrats hold a 26-16 edge in the Se­nate, but the vote didn’t fall along party lines.

Vot­ing against the bill were Demo­cratic Sens. Pete Cam­pos of Las Ve­gas, Car­los Cis­neros of Questa, Richard Martinez of Es­pañola, Ge­orge Muñoz of Gallup, Se­nate Pres­i­dent Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces, Ramos, Cle­mente “Meme” Sanchez of Grants and John Arthur Smith of Dem­ing.

De­bate lasted less than an hour— brief by leg­isla­tive stan­dards on a con­tro­ver­sial bill.

If ap­proved, the bill would have gone back to the House be­cause a Se­nate com­mit­tee had amended the leg­is­la­tion.

The Se­nate change left in place a sec­tion of law that said peo­ple who ob­ject on moral grounds can’t be forced to par­tic­i­pate in an abor­tion. Sup­port­ers of the leg­is­la­tion had ar­gued the “con­science” clause was re­dun­dant and not ac­tu­ally needed to en­sure peo­ple don’t have to par­tic­i­pate.

That is­sue, in any case, didn’t sur­face dur­ing Thurs­day’s floor de­bate.

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