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New Efforts to Repeal NM's Old Abortion Law

A 2017 survey of rural New Mexico residents showed 77 percent of respondents said they trust women to make decisions about abortion for themselves. (freedomworks.org)
A 2017 survey of rural New Mexico residents showed 77 percent of respondents said they trust women to make decisions about abortion for themselves. (freedomworks.org)
November 30, 2018

SANTA FE, N. M. – With a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court, state activists want to make sure that abortion will remain legal in New Mexico, no matter happens at the national level.

New Mexico is one of nine states with laws on the books that precede the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal. The state's current law makes it a fourth-degree felony for physicians to perform abortions except in cases of rape, incest or likely birth defects, or to protect the life of the mother.

Denicia Cadena, policy director with Young Women United, is leading the group Respect New Mexico Women. She says multiple advocacy organizations and faith leaders are behind the repeal of New Mexico's state law.

"This will be the first session that we are really in active mobilization, with communities from across New Mexico, to get this bill passed,” says Cadena. “And so, this is an issue that should matter to every legislator, because it's really about safety and well-being of New Mexico families."

State Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, will sponsor the bill at the Roundhouse and has said she hopes to file it in mid-December. She backed a similar bill last session, but the state's Republican governor did not move it forward.

Anti-abortion activists are also gearing up to fight the repeal in New Mexico, arguing it is a safeguard for women and prevents abortion from being used as birth control.

The ACLU of New Mexico has joined the effort to repeal the 1969 state law.

ACLU Attorney Erin Armstrong points to a 2017 survey that showed strong support for a woman's right to choose in rural New Mexico, in areas typically more socially conservative. She says abortion is part of health care choices, and should not be a crime.

"Under Roe v. Wade, this law is unconstitutional,” says Armstrong. “And so, since the 1970s, it's been unenforceable and for that reason, our communities haven't had to worry about it being enforced."

The Roe v. Wade decision has been repeatedly challenged, and many legislatures have imposed severe restrictions.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM