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Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP
New Mexico did away with one of the darker parts of its history. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP

New Mexico repeals archaic criminalization of abortion on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade

The 1969 law required a woman to appear before a “special hospital board” before getting an abortion.

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Jan. 22 marks the 48th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision made in Roe v. Wade, which affirmed the right to abortion in the United States. 

New Mexico is inadvertently honoring this anniversary by proposing a repeal of a 1969 law that criminalized abortion in the state. 

Under this half-century-old abortion ban, a woman can only undergo an abortion if she appears before a “special hospital board” to get permission

There are only three circumstances that would grant a woman the right to have the procedure: sexual assault that was reported to the police, a pregnancy that poses grave danger to the woman, a pregnancy that resulted from incest, or the likelihood that the child will be born with a severe mental or physical defect. 

If a woman receives an abortion without going through this process, she would be guilty of a fourth-degree felony, and if this “criminal abortion” resulted in a woman’s death, the healthcare provider would be guilty of a second-degree felony.

Although the statute has been unenforceable since the ruling in Roe v. Wade, women’s rights advocates raise valid concerns about the high court overturning or weakening the decision that restrictive state government regulations of abortions is unconstitutional. 

With the recent appointment of pro-life Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, the sense of urgency for pro-choice advocates in New Mexico has greatly expanded. This proposed repeal, Senate Bill 10, is the first bill the state Senate’s Health and Public Affairs Committee will consider on Monday Jan. 25. 

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth is one of the main sponsors of the legislation and stated that repealing “an old law that felonizes abortion” is a priority for the Senate Democratic caucus. 

“We have a whole string of things we’re focused on, but this is an issues that was front and center in the election cycle we just went through, and with the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, it is more important than ever that we take this law off our books,” said Wirth

As of now, all but two members of the Democratic caucus have signed in support of the proposal. Wirth is confident that they’ll obtain those two remaining votes to pass the bill. 

Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino claimed that he’s received “lots and lots of emails” about the proposed repeal. 

“I try to let everybody know my position on it, which is basically that we need to respect the woman’s right to have control over her own decision-making, and she and her doctor together has much better knowledge about circumstances than 112 legislators, many of whom will never have to be faced with that decision ourselves,” Ortiz y Pino said. 

Sandra Roeuny, a spokeswoman for the Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, urged lawmakers to pass the repeal and insisted that the majority of New Mexicans believe women should make their own decisions concerning their health. 

Planned Parenthood cited a study conducted by the political opinion research firm, Latino Decisions, of more than 1,700 New Mexicans living in rural areas. The study found that 56% believe that residents across the state need access to all types of reproductive health care. 

“Our legislators must be bold and remove the outdated abortion ban to ensure that women and families can access abortion care, without arbitrary restrictions, in consultation with their health care providers,” Roeuny said.

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