February 6, 2016

GOP Rep joins Democrats to halt abortion bill

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The seal of the state of New Mexico in the House

One Republican helped five Democrats kill a bill that would have legally defined when an infant is “born alive” and mandated medical intervention for those infants.

Rep. Andy Nuñez, R-Hatch, joined all Democrats in the House Health Committee to table the “Require Medical Care for All Infants” bill Saturday morning after a short debate. The debate followed more than two hours of public testimony on the bill earlier in the week.

Follow-up Story: GOP Rep won’t say why he voted against abortion bill

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, said his measure was meant protect infants who still show signs of life after abortions.

“What we’re talking about is the life of a child who is born alive after an abortion procedure,” Montoya told the committee.

Reps. Deborah Armstrong and Gail Chasey spoke against the measure before Georgene Lewis made the motion to table the bill and its committee substitute. All three are Democratic representatives from Albuquerque.

Armstrong told a story about how when her cousin was pregnant, she was “diagnosed with severe conditions where she knew the baby wouldn’t survive.” Armstrong said her cousin made the decision to deliver and hold her baby for a few hours until death.

“This bill wouldn’t allow her to do that, I believe,” Armstrong said.

Though aimed at abortion, Montoya’s bill required medical intervention for all infants showing a sign of life whether they were born naturally, through a cesarean section or after an abortion. It defined signs of life as breathing, a heartbeat, muscular movements or a pulse in an umbilical cord.

Montoya’s bill listed imminent death as an exception, which Armstrong questioned.

“What is ‘imminent death?’” she asked. “Five minutes? Twenty-four hours?”

The original bill also would have subjected doctors who do not provide medical intervention to “born alive” infants to first degree felonies. Armstrong called it “veiled attempt” to “villainize” abortion providers and “scare them from providing care.”

The bill also would have required the secretaries of the Children, Youth and Families Department, the Department of Health and the Human Services Department to coordinate a task force to create the new guidelines and enforce them by doing random interviews of abortion providers. It would also require medical professionals with knowledge of a breach to document all failures to provide a born alive infant with emergency care.

Chasey spoke of the burden such requirements would put on an already burdened CYFD.

“They are terribly underfunded,” Chasey said. “The services are so fragmented. I see a department that’s very under stress. So this is added to that. It’s a whole new burden and skillset that would have to be added to CYFD.”

Montoya said that his responded that his amended bill allowed the secretary of CYFD to work with the other departments to find staffers trained in inspecting medical facilities. He also said that underfunding as a reason to not support his bill wasn’t a good enough excuse for “something as important as this.”

“If there is a hardship, the idea to not do something this important because of funding is really a hard pill to swallow,” Montoya said. “We’re talking about a human being here.”

He added that “we have no idea” whether infants are “born alive” after local abortion procedures and not given emergency medical care because “there’s no reporting mechanism.”

In an interview earlier in the week, Montoya cited the case of Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell who was convicted of murder in 2013 for the death of three infants in botched abortions.

As part of an inquiry by two U.S. congressmen into whether Gosnell’s case was a wider problem, 38 state attorneys general didn’t find evidence to support it.

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