New Mexico’s House of Representatives passed a bill that would decriminalize the state’s inactive ban on abortion.
The move is seen as a preemptive measure to legalize abortion in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the 1973 decision to legalize abortion nationwide.
A 1969 state law in New Mexico made it is a felony for any doctor to perform abortions, except in instances of congenital abnormalities, rape, and a danger to the woman’s health.
If Roe vs. Wade were overturned, abortions would be banned completely in the New Mexico. Eight other states have laws that would also ban abortion and four additional states have “trigger laws” that would ban abortion if the Supreme Court decision was overturned.
The bill passed through the House 40-29 on Feb. 6. If the bill is approved by the Senate, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has promised to sign the measure into law.
The House, which is controlled by the Democratic Party, approved the bill mostly along party lines, but opposition to the legislation did gain bipartisan support.
According to the Associated Press, the Democratic representatives who opposed the bill included, Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup, Anthony Allison of Fruitland, Candie Sweetser of Deming, Wonda Johnson of Church Rock, and Patricio Ruiloba of Albuquerque.
Before the bill’s approval, Las Cruces Sun News reported on a few testimonies that were given to the House on Jan. 26. Opponents to the bill emphasized the lack of abortion restrictions currently in New Mexico and expressed concern that the repeal would weaken safeguards.
"We are now known as a late-term abortion state, which I'm very ashamed of," said Pauline Anaya, an educator and therapist in Albuquerque.
"I just have a deep concern that we are taking the only explicit protection we have for individuals," said Rep. Gregg Schmedes, a Tijeras Republican and surgeon.
The makeup of the Supreme Court has changed significantly since President Trump promised to appoint pro-life Justices. Trump nominated Justices Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
Advocates for the bill have expressed concern about a possible repeal of Roe vs. Wade. Representative Joanne Ferrary, co-sponsor of the bill, said the bill was a necessary protection to ensure abortion services are safe and legal.
"It is time to remove this archaic law from New Mexico's books," she said, according to Las Cruces Sun News. "With the threat of a Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe, we need to pass this bill to protect health care providers and keep abortion safe and legal.”
In a Jan. 7 statement, Bishop James Wall of Gallup opposed House Bill 51 and encouraged lawmakers to focus on policies that support human prosperity at all stages of life.
“While the law is currently not enforced due to federal legalization of abortion through the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade, I nevertheless urge opposition to any bills that would loosen abortion restrictions,” he said.
“New Mexico consistently ranks low or last among other states in education results, economic opportunities, poverty, and childhood health. An abortion will not fix the obstacles many women and families face, such as economic instability, access to education, and a higher standard of living.”