WASHINGTON — Since the end of January, the legislatures of New York, Virginia and other states have made headlines by approving or introducing policies that relax abortion restrictions, even in the third trimester and during labor.
Now New Mexico is one step closer to passing a similar bill that loosens the state’s already permissive abortion laws and would erase virtually all abortion restrictions in the event that the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade is overturned.
The “Decriminalize Abortion Bill,” or H.B. 51, has now made its way through the New Mexico House of Representatives, receiving the body’s overall approval in a 40-29 floor vote Feb. 6 after being confirmed by several committees. It is now headed for the Senate, where it will be the subject of further debate and another vote.
There are three main parts of New Mexico’s pre-Roe abortion law that would be invalidated by the act: a prohibition that makes abortion a felony; language that permits abortions in some circumstances as determined by a physician, such as rape or threat to a mother’s life; and an opt-out provision for hospitals or providers that register moral or religious objections to performing the procedure.
Most of these were invalidated already by Roe vs. Wade or the New Mexico Court of Appeals, giving New Mexico some of the laxest abortion policy in the country.
But if Roe vs. Wade is eventually overturned, this state law would ensure that abortion would be available virtually on-demand in New Mexico.
In multiple statements, the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops has condemned the bill and urged Catholics in the state’s three dioceses to take action against it.
In one statement released before H.B. 51 had passed the House Judiciary Committee, the bishops criticized the bill as a whole but especially the portions that would be in effect even without a Roe vs. Wade repeal. For example, as per the Jan. 31 release, “H.B. 51 guarantees that parents will NOT be involved in their minor daughter’s abortion,” which the bishops see as extremely damaging and opening the door to abuse.
Additionally, in that statement the bishops lamented the lack of protections for doctors who object to abortion on moral or religious grounds.
The statement included statistics collected from the New Mexico Alliance for Life, which indicate that the principles of the bill are not attuned to New Mexican opinion. Included were claims that “67 percent of New Mexicans support parental involvement in a minor’s abortion” and that “70 percent of New Mexicans oppose allowing abortions after five months up to birth.”
After H.B. 51 had cleared the House, the bishops released another statement, again denouncing the elimination of religious protections, which would be enforceable without a Roe overturn:
New Mexico Alliance for Life Executive Director Elisa Martinez told Catholic News Service in a phone interview that there is a chance the bill will meet its demise in the Senate, but it will “take a lot of effort” from multiple parties to achieve that outcome.
Martinez reiterated the extreme nature of the bill and how its exclusion of conscience protection puts it even beyond the Reproductive Health Act recently passed in New York, which allows abortions in the Empire State up to birth for almost any reason.
Currently, Martinez said, “this is the most extreme bill in the nation.” She noted that the New Mexico bill was part of a wider goal by the abortion lobby to end religious refusals to abortion.
Supreme Court blocks Louisiana law that would restrict abortion providers
— The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a Louisiana law requiring abortion
providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals Feb. 7. In
the court’s 5-4 vote, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with four
justices in favor of blocking this regulation for now.
Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh sided
with the state law, but Kavanaugh also wrote a dissent from the order,
noting he would have preferred more information on the specific impact
of the state’s restrictions. In his dissent, he wrote that the main
issue is if the admitting-privileges requirement puts an “undue burden”
on a woman’s ability to have an abortion. Kavanaugh stated the state’s
doctors and hospitals should first aim to resolve the
admitting-privileges question and if they can’t, the case should return
to court. If they resolve this issue and doctors continue to perform
abortions, he stated the law would not impose an undue burden.
— Catholic News Service