New Mexico lawmakers advance bill protecting abortionists

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New Mexico lawmakers advanced a bill last week that would protect the privacy of abortionists and patients, and protects those who may violate out-of-state abortion laws.

The bill, SB 13, advanced a legislative panel with a 5-3 vote along party lines. It would codify an executive order issued last year by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, offering legal protections for abortionists and abortion patients, as well as limiting state entities from cooperating in out-of-state investigations into abortion-related issues.

“The bill in front of us is protecting a person’s ability to access reproductive healthcare. It could be abortion care, it could be gender-affirming care. We want to make sure access is open, open in New Mexico for those coming from neighboring states. This is here to protect our providers for providing the necessary care being asked for,” said Sen. Linda Lopez, one of the bill’s sponsors.

“We want to make sure that our providers are protected so that they are not criminalized by Texas or some other state,” she told a Senate panel.

The Associated Press reports that per the bill, prosecutors can file civil charges linked to interference with abortion, with fines of up to $5,000 or $10,000 for attempting to circumvent certain provisions. Individuals can also sue for damages.

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“What we don’t want to see in our state … is providers paranoid when they do their jobs, and patients paranoid,” said Kat Sánchez of the pro-abortion group Bold Futures.

However, as Sen. Gregg Schmedes pointed out, the bill could also be used to protect abortionists who violate the law. “If potentially someone is alleging malpractice or harm, if that harm is in this area of healthcare, this is creating extra barriers,” he noted, according to NM Political Report.

The bill needs to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee next before it heads to the full Senate for a vote. Per the Associated Press, the Senate has until March 18 to send the bill to Gov. Grisham, who would be expected to sign.

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