Democrats push to enshrine abortion rights in New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democratic legislators are redoubling efforts to repeal New Mexico’s dormant, 50-year-old ban on most abortion procedures that could go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion ruling.

A bill that would shore up abortion rights statewide was scheduled for its first legislative committee hearing on Monday, in videoconference format as a precaution against the coronavirus.

Twenty-five senators have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill — an indication of strong support in the 42-member, Democrat-led state Senate.

The state’s voters last year ousted five conservative-leaning Democratic senators who voted in 2019 against a failed bill to overturn the state’s abortion ban.

The state House approved that bill and appears unlikely to waiver this year. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, wants the abortion ban overturned.

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.

Abortion legislation in New Mexico has implications for residents of neighboring states such as Texas, which has more stringent restrictions on abortion than New Mexico. Out-of-state women accounted for about one-quarter of the abortions performed in New Mexico in 2017.

An Albuquerque clinic is one of only a few independent facilities in the country that performs abortions close to the third trimester without conditions.

Anti-abortion activists were buoyed by President Donald Trump’s appointment of scores of federal judges — including three Supreme Court justices — who are viewed as open to repealing or weakening Roe v. Wade.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris announced last week that they would seek to enshrine the right for women to get abortions into federal law to protect it from court challenges.