After Heated Debate New Mexico House OKs Protections For Out-Of-State Abortion Seekers And Providers

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Andrea Romero

The Santa Fe New Mexican

The conflict between abortion rights advocates and those opposing the procedure ignited Friday on the House floor over a bill that would offer protections for patients and providers from out-of-state investigations.

Senate Bill 13 — which also stirred passionate debate in the Senate — predominantly protects medical providers of reproductive care and out-of-state patients from civil or criminal action by states where abortion is not legal.

The 38-30 House vote on SB 13 did not run entirely along partisan lines. Six Democrats joined 24 Republicans in opposing the bill.

The measure, which also offers protections for transgender people seeking care, now goes to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for her signature. The governor, who supports abortion rights and recently signed the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care Freedom Act, is expected to sign SB 13 into law.

“This bill is sending a clear message to providers and patients that we will not participate in other states’ efforts to punish … them,” said Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, one of the sponsors of the bill.

She said it addresses laws across the country where they “try to criminalize [abortion] care.”

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling that overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision protecting access to abortion nationwide, states have responded in radically different ways. Many Republican-controlled states, including neighboring Texas, have passed laws banning most abortions and also have mulled measures to prevent residents from obtaining abortions out of state.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in many Democratic-led states, like New Mexico, have been passing laws codifying abortion rights and vowing not to cooperate with attempts by states where abortion is illegal to prosecute residents who seek the procedure elsewhere — or to prosecute providers.

Connecticut became the first state, in 2022, to pass a law protecting out-of-state abortion seekers, and a few others, including New York, have followed suit. New Mexico would join them.

Laws also have been introduced or passed in some Republican states over the past couple of years restricting gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Democratic states, including Connecticut and California, have responded by passing laws to shield transgender youth and medical providers in their states from out-of-state investigations or lawsuits.

SB 13’s Democratic sponsors have said the law is necessary as surrounding states work to interfere with abortion and transgender rights.

House Republicans countered New Mexico should not be interfering with other states’ rights.

“I have a hard time dictating to other states, saying, ‘We think our rights are more important than your rights as a state,” Rep. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park said.

As Friday’s debate stretched to three hours, Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, argued the bill would prohibit free speech for people who oppose abortion and want to speak out against or protest abortion services.

He introduced an amendment that would “not take away the rights of churches or other organizations or individuals to say unflattering things about procedures that they find morally reprehensible,” he said.

At one point, he requested a call of the House — a procedure that requires all representatives to be physically present for a vote and often stalls proceedings as House aides try to round up missing lawmakers.

House Speaker Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, ruled Montoya’s call out of order, and the debate continued. Montoya’s amendment failed.

Assistant City Editor Nathan Brown contributed to this report.

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