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A man protests Monday outside the state Capitol against a proposal to repeal a half-century-old law that criminalizes abortion in New Mexico. He declined to be identified.

A bill to repeal a half-century-old law that criminalizes abortion in New Mexico cleared its first committee hearing Monday after emotional and sometimes rousing testimony from people on opposite sides of the contentious issue.

On a 5-3 party-line vote favoring Democrats, the state Senate’s Health and Public Affairs Committee endorsed the legislation following a three-hour virtual hearing that started about two hours late because of technical problems.

The bill, which failed two years ago when a group of more moderate or conservative-leaning Democrats were in office and joined with Republicans to vote down the measure, will next go to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Every pregnancy is unique and complex, making a decision to not continue with pregnancy difficult,” said state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, a Health and Public Affairs Committee member and one of the primary sponsors of the proposed repeal.

“Each decision … is personal,” she added. “We must respect and support those who have to make such a decision and to take politics and the law out of it.”

Several people who testified against the bill raised concerns about a lack of “conscience protections” for health care providers, which Sen. Gregg Schmedes, who is a doctor, said could drive medical professionals out of the state and threaten New Mexicans’ access to health care.

“When we see people getting fired from hospitals because of conscience issues, is it reasonable for a New Mexico doctor to be a little bit afraid of, ‘Could that happen to me if Senate Bill 10 passes?’ ” he said.

Conscience protection allows a provider to object to a practice based on moral or religious grounds.

“The way that I interpret this bill is that you are forcing doctors and nurses to participate in abortion against their will,” added Schmedes, a Republican from Tijeras.

It was a concern echoed by health care workers, including a certified nurse midwife who said she views abortion “as the murder of healthy babies.”

“Imagine that your job duties suddenly changed to include performing murder,” she said. “What would you do? I cannot morally go through with that.”

Supporters of the bill disputed the notion.

“As [a board certified obstetrician gynecologist] practicing for more than a decade, I have never met a health provider who has been forced to provide any health care they oppose, not even a circumcision,” said Lisa Hofler, who also is an executive officer for the New Mexico section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which she said supports the repeal.

The current New Mexico statute is unenforceable because of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that found overly restrictive state government regulations of abortion unconstitutional. But proponents of the bill expressed urgency in repealing the measure amid concerns the U.S. Supreme Court will weaken or overturn the ruling with new Justice Amy Coney Barrett giving conservatives a wide majority on the bench.

State Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, said the bill would ensure that abortion remains “accessible, safe and legal” in New Mexico.

“When I was growing up during the period of pre-Roe v. Wade, friends and relatives of mine didn’t have access to safe and legal abortions,” she said during a virtual news conference Monday ahead of the hearing.

“Many women suffered needless injury or even death, and if our 1969 abortion ban remains on the books when Roe v. Wade falls, it will pose a threat to the health, well-being and the autonomy of women and pregnant people,” she said. “We won’t go back to those times.”

Ferrary also said the bill would treat women as individuals with their own set of circumstances and medical needs.

“This legislation will make sure health care is decided by science and medicine, rather than politics,” she said.

SB 10, introduced on the session’s opening day last week, went to the Senate floor in 2019 but failed when eight Democrats joined all 16 Republican senators in voting to keep the anti-abortion law on the books. Six of those Democrats are no longer in office, giving proponents of the measure more hope that it’ll be signed into law this year by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has made the repeal one of her legislative priorities.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth noted that 25 members of the Senate Democratic caucus have signed on in support of the bill.

“That shows how far we’ve come with this legislation,” he said, adding the controversial issue was “front and center” during the primary last year during races in which several Democrats who voted against the bill in 2019 were defeated by progressive challengers.

“I am incredibly honored to help shepherd this very important legislation through the Senate and then through the House and up to the governor,” Wirth said. “It’s time that we take this antiquated law passed in 1969 off the books, and it’s time for politicians to stay out of women’s health care decisions. I look forward to getting this done.”

During Monday’s committee hearing, state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, another Albuquerque Democrat and committee member, called the issue “very difficult.”

“My mother is a santera. She’s a Catholic daughter and she thinks abortion is a sin,” Sedillo Lopez said. “However, she does not think it is the government’s business.”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter

@danieljchacon.

(49) comments

Richard Irell

Zygote ≠ embryo ≠ human being

Kathy Fish

Intriguing to see that just two of the comments, in this going-on-36-comments list, are associated with recognizably female names. Speaking of which: SFNM, can we update the photo here to reflect the women whose bodies and futures are at stake? Right now, I'm seeing an angry old man holding up a hateful, anti-woman sign. Giving attention to men like this one seems counterintuitive to the uplifting headline - and to our ultimate goal.

Richard Irell

I disagree with the man pictured, but I think that the SFNM was correct in including it in the article. You can’t pretend that the other side doesn’t exist, nor can you deny them a voice.

Cynthia Lamb

I saw the MAN protesting abortion on Paseo yesterday. My immediate thought regarding him was..."get a uterus." When he becomes capable of giving birth, THEN he may have an argument I would be willing to listen to.

Cynthia Lamb

I would add...where ever abortion is prohibited, there should be a complementary law whereby a MAN who fathers a child and does not contribute to the support and well being of that child should be castrated.

Julee Clear

It has been said often before, and I'll say it again: if men were the ones who carried the babies in their bodies and gave birth, and men were the ones who were the primary caretakers of all children, as well as sometimes the major breadwinner in addition to most of the house cleaning, cooking, carpooling, laundry, etc. they indeed would be singing a different tune.

Jim Klukkert

State bans on abortions mean that we allow Government to mandate a woman to carry a fetus to term, and that the Government is allowed to greatly diminish a woman's agency.

I am surprised that any true Conservative would support those practices. Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Arizona, a legendary Conservative, opposed government abortion bans.

Brian Weiss

I fully respect those who are opposed to abortion because they have religious beliefs that say it's wrong. Fine. But do NOT impose your religious beliefs on those who believe differently. Every woman has the right to make her own decision on this. Your approval of that decision is neither sought nor desired. And for those who would say, "Oh, but it's not just about religion," take a look at the picture of the guy with the sign. It's about religion.

Rebecca Carrier

Once again, most of the people commenting on this are men. Many of us older women have fought for the right to a safe, legal abortion since before Rowe vs. Wade was finally enacted. The decision that a woman makes with her health care provider is never easy. Every situation is unique, and each woman must consider her physical health - along with the mental and financial health of herself and her family. Women are the ones who carry the most responsibility - by far - in carrying, bearing and raising a child. No law deciding who can and cannot have a safe abortion can possibly address all the complex issues that a woman faces. And no one is better positioned at making that decision than the woman herself, with the help of those she chooses to advise her. Government has no role here.

Russell Scanlon

[thumbup][thumbup]

Jim Klukkert

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Elizabeth Pettus

Statistically, if you want to have a nation or state with fewer abortions, one needs to completely decriminalize the medical practice and make education and birth control widely and wisely available. If you want more abortions and more suffering, just keep punishing women. There are numerous international examples. This real cynics here are those who favor their position above reality.

Russell Scanlon

[thumbup]

Jim Klukkert

[thumbup]

Richard Irell

I know that there are women that are pro-life, anti-choice, anti-abortion, whatever, but it seems that a large number of people who protest safe and legal abortions are at zero risk of losing their bodily autonomy.

Bill Cass

Very sad to see people celebrating the "right" to kill their own children.

Richard Irell

That is a dishonest statement. I am pro-choice, but do not celebrate abortion.

Ian Fuego

Mr. Cass, I agree with Mr. Irell. Your statement doesn’t apply to all who support abortion, as Mr. Irell indicates; he does not celebrate abortion. What is very sad to see is, people championing the "right" to kill their own children.

Jim Klukkert

[thumbdown] Bill Cass- your statement "people celebrating the "right" to kill their own children" is callous, insensitive, ignorant and designed to score political points on the backs of good people making difficult, painful decisions.

Shame on you.

Russell Scanlon

I’m not saying that men should not have a voice in this very difficult debate. It’s just that men should not be making laws for what should be a personal, private decision between a woman, her physician, and her conscience. And BTW—aren’t these the same folks that are always yammering about “too much government” in our lives?

Bill Cass

Should white people have a voice in racial discussions? yes. Should men have a voice in a discussion over whether to kill their children? yes.

Russell Scanlon

The men should also have a discussion BEFORE the woman gets pregnant. By the time abortion is in discussion it’s too late. But the same people who rail against abortion don’t want to provide sex education for young people either. Like most other modern “conservative” positions, it’s a recipe for disaster and failure.

Richard Irell

White people who are for apartheid, discrimination, segregation, etc., have a right to air their views, just as men who want to control women have the right to theirs.

I, as a white man, have no gut understanding of what it like to be either a person of color or a woman.

Jeff clark

yes a voice but not the final say

Khal Spencer

We all contribute to making laws in the republic. That doesn't mean we all have an equal stake in their outcome. The First Amendment doesn't have topical boxes to check. I get your point, but would circumscribe it a bit.

Julee Clear

I have never known a woman who actually wanted an abortion. It is a very painful and shameful decision to make. Our patriarchal society favors men over women in a variety of ways, and does not support single mothers with affordable child and health care or even a decent wage in many cases. Women who are pregnant by partners who are absent, abusive, or on drugs, or are in any way not prepared to be a fully supportive parent and partner, are forced to carry the burdens of healthily raising a child alone. This same patriarchal culture then harshly judges women as we struggle in this instance, as if we became pregnant all by ourselves. Until you have been pregnant and abandoned by a careless man, or paid less, or work in a low-paying job, or whatever has happened in your life that places you in a position where you cannot fully and joyfully welcome a child, please withhold your judgement and your scorn.

Khal Spencer

If you do a web search on "when does personhood begin" you are in for a lot of reading. Get started if you want to comment on personhood and abortion.

Khal Spencer

One example.

https://www.swarthmore.edu/news-events/when-does-personhood-begin#transcript

Video of lecture on "When Does Human Life Begin" given to the American Reproductive Health Professional Society, 2010. (A similar talk was given to the Legionaries of Christ in 2007).

Richard Irell

Thanks for the link.

Ian Fuego

Thank you for providing all of those subjective resources. It is undeniable, backed by science, that from the moment of conception what is being aborted is living, and is of the human. Does not any human, no matter at what stage of life, deserve to live?

Khal Spencer

"Does not any human, no matter at what stage of life, deserve to live?"

That's the philosophical and medical question that a lot of providers and philosophers debate. Peter Singer also has a good chapter (6) in Practical Ethics. If the best minds in the country can't decide, then the last thing we need is a draconian law. We need to think about this.

I don't have a dog in this hunt, by the way, other than if I say something really awful my wife will deck me with a frying pan. I'm not likely to get pregnant and if my spouse does, it will prove once and for all that immaculate conception really does happen.

Russell Scanlon

[beam]

Russell Scanlon

The thing is, I really respect the Conservative position on abortion and I don’t take it lightly. It is difficult, complex problem and in spite of the rhetoric, not a black and white issue. What I object to is the exploitation and the moral inconsistency of the Pro-Life (and mostly Republican) partisans. “Pro-Life”? After the events of last year can anyone really seriously argue that the GOP is “Pro-Life”? Is it “Pro-Life” to deny the existence of COVID or call it a Democratic hoax? Is it “Pro-Life” to separate infants from their parents at the border or gleefully throw children off of federal food stamp programs? And the worst part is that you know that the daughters of the wealthy will still be able to get abortions on demand. As usual, it will the poor who suffer from this hypocrisy. Moral consistency would be nice, but it certainly is in short supply these days.

Jim Klukkert

"I'm not likely to get pregnant and if my spouse does....."

DUCK KHAL!

Khal Spencer

Asterisk on the immaculate conception statement. We are both in our later sixties.

Richard Irell

Apparently you have not read the resources or you would never have said “. . . Undeniable, backed by science” .

Try reading it and then answer the question skied in the parable.

Ian Fuego

Mr. Irell, I have read the resources, multiple resources from both positions. As Mr. Spencer pointed out in his later post “the best minds in the country can't decide”, (which confirms the subjectivity of what resources are used) and its not as much as a decision having been made but an more of a lack of agreement surrounding this issue. There are two sides to every position and information from both sides must be taken into consideration when we form out own personal subjective opinions about these topics. What science has factually proven, for your information, is that from conception, in the earliest stages of life, the zygote is a living human being. It is a growing, developing living human, and not some inanimate object of another species or race. As a healthcare professional for over 23 years, it is a disservice to call abortion “healthcare”, that is a contradiction in itself, call abortion what it is, the termination (killing) of human life at its earliest stages. I’ll ask a basic question again for everyone to contemplate, do living humans beings, no matter what stage of life, deserve to live?

Richard Irell

You said that you read the resources, yet you persist in saying that the science is undeniable about the beginning of human life. You may disagree with the scientists and ethicists who state that life does not begin at conception, but you can’t claim that they don’t exist. Repeating a falsehood does not make it true.

Khal Spencer

Its sure is easy to move the goalposts on this one. Sure, a fertilized human egg has a human chromosomal makeup. So do the cells shed into the sink when I wash my hands. This reminds me of the Woody Allen movie Sleeper when the protagonists are supposed to clone the Leader from all that was left of him after a bomb explosion: his nose.

Is it really a person/child as opposed to a potential human being at the gastrulation stage? Do we name and baptize it and give it a pre-birth certificate? How about a draft and social security card!

The only real question for the State in regulating abortion is this: when does the developing fetus acquires legal rights that give the state some say in its continued existence independent of the mother's free choice? I suppose that opens up a Pandora's box of whether the state has the right to sanction a pregnant woman for being a drug addict or alcoholic, too, due to conditions such as fetal alcohol syndrome.

As far as abortion, SCOTUS struggled with that in Roe and Casey. I don't have a problem with those rulings and don't pretend to be wiser than those courts. Of course as others have said, being a male means I never have to worry about getting pregnant. But when my wife and I were young and of child conceiving ages, we did have these "what if" discussions as a couple.

As the old 1969 New Mexico law goes far beyond the boundaries of Roe and Casey, which has been law of the land for half a century (and Sandra Day O'Connor co-wrote the ruling in Casey v Planned Parenthood of SE Pennsylvania), I think our law must be repealed. We can, as a society, continue the discussion from there.

I think my senator, Peter Wirth, is doing the right thing by sponsoring this bill. That is not the end of the discussion, though. Should be the beginning of a more humanistic discussion about how we support families.

Ian Fuego

Mr. Irell, putting ethics aside, there is no factual science proving that life does not exist at conception, the idea of the concept does, but the factual proof doesn't exist. Life begins at fertilization, fact, if a zygote was not alive/ living, it would cease to develop hence a miscarriage. But from conception, a zygote is alive/ living and will grow into a child after 9 months (just like you did), and that is a fact. Unfortunately it appears your personal feelings are clouding your intellect and facts don't care about your feelings or your intellect. I look forward to an eternity of waiting for you to post a peer reviewed medical journal proving life doesn't begin at fertilization, but until them you can look at this, good day.

https://www.princeton.edu/~prolife/articles/embryoquotes2.html

"Development of the embryo begins at Stage 1 when a sperm fertilizes an oocyte and together they form a zygote."

[England, Marjorie A. Life Before Birth. 2nd ed. England: Mosby-Wolfe, 1996, p.31]

"Human development begins after the union of male and female gametes or germ cells during a process known as fertilization (conception).

"Fertilization is a sequence of events that begins with the contact of a sperm (spermatozoon) with a secondary oocyte (ovum) and ends with the fusion of their pronuclei (the haploid nuclei of the sperm and ovum) and the mingling of their chromosomes to form a new cell. This fertilized ovum, known as a zygote, is a large diploid cell that is the beginning, or primordium, of a human being."

[Moore, Keith L. Essentials of Human Embryology. Toronto: B.C. Decker Inc, 1988, p.2]

"Embryo: the developing organism from the time of fertilization until significant differentiation has occurred, when the organism becomes known as a fetus."

[Cloning Human Beings. Report and Recommendations of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission. Rockville, MD: GPO, 1997, Appendix-2.]

"Embryo: An organism in the earliest stage of development; in a man, from the time of conception to the end of the second month in the uterus."

[Dox, Ida G. et al. The Harper Collins Illustrated Medical Dictionary. New York: Harper Perennial, 1993, p. 146]

"Embryo: The early developing fertilized egg that is growing into another individual of the species. In man the term 'embryo' is usually restricted to the period of development from fertilization until the end of the eighth week of pregnancy."

[Walters, William and Singer, Peter (eds.). Test-Tube Babies. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1982, p. 160]

"The development of a human being begins with fertilization, a process by which two highly specialized cells, the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female, unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote."

[Langman, Jan. Medical Embryology. 3rd edition. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1975, p. 3]

"Embryo: The developing individual between the union of the germ cells and the completion of the organs which characterize its body when it becomes a separate organism.... At the moment the sperm cell of the human male meets the ovum of the female and the union results in a fertilized ovum (zygote), a new life has begun.... The term embryo covers the several stages of early development from conception to the ninth or tenth week of life."

[Considine, Douglas (ed.). Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia. 5th edition. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976, p. 943]

"I would say that among most scientists, the word 'embryo' includes the time from after fertilization..."

[Dr. John Eppig, Senior Staff Scientist, Jackson Laboratory (Bar Harbor, Maine) and Member of the NIH Human Embryo Research Panel -- Panel Transcript, February 2, 1994, p. 31]

"The development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote."

[Sadler, T.W. Langman's Medical Embryology. 7th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins 1995, p. 3]

Russell Scanlon

I’ll read it when you get pregnant.

Khal Spencer

Cheap shot if meant for me. Do you even know my opinion on this?

Russell Scanlon

Sorry—meant to be humorous. Tone is everything (and non-existent in these forums). Yes—you make good points, but I still believe that we have some big problems with the whole “white patriarchy” thing right now. Peace.

Khal Spencer

Oh, OK. I agree with that and I'm sorry I took offense.

Russell Scanlon

Likewise—this is a tough room.

Ian Fuego

"State Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, said the bill would ensure that abortion remains “accessible, safe and legal” in New Mexico."

There is no such thing as a "safe abortion", someone always dies. I humbly ask all to watch this testimony of a former abortion provider

 https://youtu.be/j0tQZhEisaE

Khal Spencer

Just do it. Repeal.

Jim Klukkert

[thumbup]

Carlos Vasquez

[thumbup]

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