By Etta Pettijohn

One of the most contentious bills moving through the legislature this session, now underway, is a bill that loosens the state’s liberal abortion law and lifts all abortion restrictions.

Sponsors and proponents of the “Decriminalize Abortion Bill,” or H.B. 51, said the measure is an attempt to keep the medical procedure legal in the event that the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade is overturned.

The bill cleared the New Mexico House of Representatives in a 40-29 party-line floor vote Feb. 6. It will now be debated the Senate. Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, is sponsoring legislation.

The state's criminal abortion law has been on the books for 50 years; however, it legally unenforceable due to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

In her State of the State address to the Legislature Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she supports an effort to repeal a 1969 statute that makes it a fourth-degree felony for doctors to perform abortions except in cases of rape, incest, likely birth defects or to protect the life of the mother.
There are more than 4,000 abortions performed annually in the state, which has one of the nation's few providers of late-term abortions.

Opponents of the measure contend it would remove safeguards ensuring medical providers can refuse to participate in an abortion as a matter of conscience, and said New Mexico is already known as the late-term abortion capital of the country.

The measure is awaiting action in the Senate Public Affairs Committee, although it was not scheduled for action this week.