This legislative session two bills were introduced that would limit women’s access to abortion services. HB390 is a bill that would prohibit women from having abortions after 20 weeks gestation and HB391 would prevent minors from obtaining abortions without first notifying their parent or legal guardian.
Both bills passed through the republican-controlled house in early march and were heard in committee in the Senate this past weekend. After testimony from moms and daughters, medical providers, and senators, both bills were tabled. When a bill is tabled that typically means it stops where it is and will not move on to become law. Nothing is guaranteed, however, until the session is over. Senate republicans attempted to blast the bill twice already, once before the committee vote and once after. Blasting the bill means it would bypass the committee to which it was assigned, (undermining the committee process) and go straight to the full senate for a vote, where senate republicans believe it has a better chance of passing.
Senate republicans claimed on Sunday that these are common-sense bills. But is that really the case? HB390 would prevent women from having access to safe and legal late-term abortions, unless the pregnancy was not viable or if the abortion was needed to save the life of the pregnant woman. As much of the testimony at the hearing demonstrated, sometimes it is not that straightforward.
Many fetal anomalies are not routinely tested for by ultrasound until around 20 weeks. Even if something looks abnormal, it may take weeks and many follow-up appointments to get a diagnosis if the physician is able to make one at all. In some states it is actually legal for the physician to withhold information about an anomaly from the pregnant woman, which sometimes happens if the physician thinks the information would encourage the woman to end her pregnancy. Anomalies vary in severity: some like anencephaly, where most of the brain is missing, is a fatal diagnosis. Others might indicate years of medical interventions with unknown outcomes.
Senator Mimi Stewart (D) told the room that she had two babies born without lungs, and had to bury both of her sons. “That was a long time ago,” she said “and with modern healthcare I wonder what would’ve been possible. But what kind of healthcare would they need? What kind of life would they have had?” Ms. Stewart said she was ashamed we were discussing this type of legislature and urged the room to focus on the lives of people that are already born, listing kindergarten, securing a living wage, education and healthcare as some alternative priorities.
Even in cases where the pregnancy is viable and could potentially live outside of the woman who is carrying and nurturing it, the decision to continue or terminate a pregnancy at any gestation remains a deeply personal one. Decisions about pregnancy need to remain with women, families, and their doctors. What women and families really need is access to safe healthcare, support, and compassionate access to abortion services.
Contact your senators and thank them for supporting the private decisions NM families need.
Here at SWWO we urge you to stay up to date with legislative issues happening in our state. Stay tuned for an update of HB391 coming soon.