New Mexico legislators want to repeal state's abortion ban

By Christine Rousselle

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A group of New Mexican legislators seeks to overturn a state law that would make abortion illegal if Roe v. Wade were overturned, part of a developing trend among the handful of states with laws that criminalize abortion.

Currently, New Mexico law states it is a felony for an abortionist to perform an abortion, with exceptions for rape, birth defects, and to preserve the health of the mother. This law, which dates to the 1960s, has not been enforced since 1973, when the Supreme Court found a right to an abortion throughout a woman’s pregnancy.

Rep. Joanne Ferrary (D-Las Cruces) intends to introduce a bill in the next legislative session that would remove this law from the books. This proposed bill is supported by the state’s governor-elect, Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), as well as the state’s House Speaker and Senate majority leader. The legislative leaders have tabbed the bill as a “high priority” for the upcoming session of the legislature.

Lujan Grisham said that she believes the law criminalizing abortion to be “antiquated” and one that would “punish women.” She has pledged to sign the bill if it were passed through the legislature.

Similar efforts to repeal this law, under outgoing Gov. Susana Martinez (R), failed.

As of now, nine states, including New Mexico, have laws that would ban abortion. Four additional states – Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota – have what are known as “trigger laws” that would ban abortion if the Roe decision were overturned.

With the recent confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court, expectations that the decision might be overturned have been heightened. Those who are in favor of abortion rights are moving to change various laws that would be enforced if abortion were once again left to the states to decide.

Until July, Massachusetts had a 19th-century law on the books that made the act of “procuring a miscarriage” illegal. Similar to New Mexico’s law, this has not been enforced since 1973. That law was repealed with the passage of the “Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young Women Act,” which was commonly known as the “NASTY Women Act.”

On the other end of the abortion law spectrum, the Ohio House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would make abortion illegal after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. The fetal heartbeat can be detected at around six weeks gestation, before some women even are aware they are pregnant.

Previously, this bill has been vetoed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), although Kasich has signed many more abortion restrictions into law.

A request to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe for comment on the bill was not responded to in time for publication.

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