The New Mexico Senate on Thursday rejected a proposal to repeal the state’s law criminalizing abortion, which dates to 1969. The state’s Catholic bishops had strongly opposed the law’s repeal.
Eight Democrats joined all 16 Republicans in opposing House Bill 51, voting it down 24-18. The House of Representatives passed the bill last month, and Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham had promised to sign the measure into law.
At issue is a New Mexico law which makes it is a felony for any doctor to perform abortions, except in instances of congenital abnormalities, rape, and a danger to the woman’s health. The law has not been enforced since 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision that found a constitutional right to abortion.
Democratic Senator Gabriel Ramos reportedly cited his religious beliefs and the Catholic Church before voting against House Bill 51, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
“This is one of the toughest decisions any of us will ever have to make,” he was quoted as saying in the Journal.
“I stand unified against legislation that weakens the defense of life and threatens the dignity of the human being.”
The debate over the bill lasted for hours and featured emotional and sometimes tearful testimonies from both opponents and supporters, the Journal reported.
Advocates for House Bill 51 had expressed concern about a possible repeal of Roe v. Wade. Representative Joanne Ferrary, co-sponsor of the bill, has said the bill was a necessary protection to ensure abortion services are “safe and legal.”
“It is time to remove this archaic law from New Mexico’s books,” she said, according to Las Cruces Sun News.
“With the threat of a Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe, we need to pass this bill to protect health care providers and keep abortion safe and legal.”
In a January 7 statement ahead of the House passing the bill, Bishop James Wall of Gallup voiced his opposition and encouraged lawmakers to focus on policies that support human prosperity at all stages of life.
“While the law is currently not enforced due to federal legalization of abortion through the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade, I nevertheless urge opposition to any bills that would loosen abortion restrictions,” he said.
“New Mexico consistently ranks low or last among other states in education results, economic opportunities, poverty, and childhood health. An abortion will not fix the obstacles many women and families face, such as economic instability, access to education, and a higher standard of living.”
Eight other states have laws that would also ban abortion and four additional states have “trigger laws” that would ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned.
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