In a party-line vote of 3-2, Democrats on the New Mexico House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted down HB 600, the Keisha Atkins Women’s Health and Safety Act, which would have essentially eliminated the chances of infanticide after an abortion. By limiting elective abortions of viable infants after 5 months gestation, the bill had the potential to ensure that viable preborn children could not be aborted and therefore, could not be left to die if they survived an abortion.
According to the current University of New Mexico abortion policy, labor-induced abortions committed after 22 weeks can result in a live birth in which “the intended abortus may be born with signs of life.” The policy does not state what kind of care, if any, the newborn would receive despite the fact that with medical help, the child would have a good chance of surviving.
The bill also had the potential to reduce the number of women who die or are injured during an abortion. HB 600 was named for Keisha Atkins, a woman who died as the result of an elective abortion at six months she obtained at Southwestern Women’s Options in Albuquerque, a late-term abortion facility. Her mother testified in favor of the bill.
“I ask you to pass this bill in my daughter’s name, in honor of the other women and children who are not here today; please stop this in our state. I ask you to join me in this fight to end late-term abortion in New Mexico – once and for all,” said Tina Atkins.
Dr. Mary Rose Turner also spoke in support of the bill, saying, “abortions after five months carry an 89 times greater risk of death than abortion at eight weeks, according to an American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology study.”
To end this inhumane and dangerous practice of late-term abortion followed up by infanticide, HB 600 sought to end elective abortions at and after 20 weeks, allowing for the exception of the health of the mother — which, in reality, is actually never necessary. When the health of the mother is at risk after the point of viability, a C-section is faster and safer than a late-term abortion. Since “health of the mother” can mean anything from familial to financial health, the exceptions clause makes a ban on late-term abortions nearly pointless. Still, House Democrats voted against ending elective late-term abortion and protecting innocent and viable lives.
According to New Mexico Alliance for Life, the vote also defeated HB 608, a conscience protection bill that would have protected medical professionals and medical facilities from being forced to commit abortions.
Representative and HB 608 co-sponsor Cathrynn Brown said, “No doctor or medical professional should be coerced into taking a human life; that is what an abortion does. If we do not provide what HB 608 attempts to do, we are going to have a lot of lawsuits and physicians leave the state because doctors do not want to be forced to do what they find morally repugnant.”
Nearly 70 percent of New Mexicans surveyed are against abortion after the fifth month of pregnancy. Representatives Liz Thompson (D), Andrea Romero (D), and Angelica Rubio (D) voted to table both of the bills while Dr. and Rep. Gregg Schmedes (R) and Rep. Candy Ezzell (R) voted in favor of both bills.
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