SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A bill to shore up abortion rights in New Mexico by repealing a dormant ban on most abortion procedures won Senate approval on Thursday, clearing a crucial hurdle in a 25-17 vote.
Female senators took the lead in presenting the Democratic-sponsored bill that would repeal a 1969 statute. Left in place, the state abortion ban might go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion ruling.
“I am supporting this bill because we need to leave individual health care decisions to a woman and her doctor,” said Democratic Sen. Carrie Hamblen of Las Cruces.
Republican senators were joined in opposition to the bill by two Democratic senators — Pete Campos of Las Vegas and George Muñoz of Gallup.
New Mexico’s move to ensure future abortion access provides a counterpoint to 10 states where outright abortion bans have been proposed this year, as Republicans vow to test where the Supreme Court stands after the appointment of three conservative justices by former President Donald Trump.
The partisan dividing line on abortion has become more pronounced in New Mexico in recent years.
Five incumbent Democratic senators who joined with Republicans to uphold the dormant state abortion ban in 2019 were ousted in last year’s Democratic primary election.
Among Republicans, state Rep. Phelps Anderson of Roswell was compelled last week to leave the state GOP after casting a vote favorable to abortion rights in committee. He could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
New Mexico’s 1969 abortion statute allows medical termination of a pregnancy with permission of a specialized hospital board only in instances of incest, rape reported to police, grave medical risks to the woman and indications of grave medical defects in the fetus.
The law has been dormant since 1973, when the nation’s highest court issued the Roe v. Wade decision, overriding state laws that banned or severely restricted access to abortion procedures.
Anti-abortion legislators say a repeal would drive away from New Mexico valued medical professionals who are conscientious objectors to abortion procedures.
Republicans including Sen. Gregg Schmedes of Tijeras, a physician, pushed unsuccessfully for an amendment to the bill that would preserve a “conscience protection clause” in support of health professionals who oppose abortion on religious or moral grounds.
Democratic Sen. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque said other provisions of state law provide conscience protections for physicians with moral or religious objections to abortion — and that opponents of the bill were engaging in lies and scare tactics.