February 21, 2020

Only a few reproductive justice bills pass in the 2020 legislative session

Susan Dunlap

The House debating a bill to extend the statute of limitations on civil actions for child sexual abuse.

Of the 12 reproductive justice bills prefiled or introduced in this year’s legislative session, only two made it to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk.

HB 25 enables pregnant workers and new moms to seek “reasonable accommodations,” to perform their jobs while pregnant or if they’ve recently given birth. It passed both the House and the Senate. The other bill, HB 21, is one that protects victims of sexual harassment, retaliation or discrimination in the workplace. Bill backers say it enables greater parity when the victim is negotiating a settlement with the former employer. Only the victim can negotiate for a nondisclosure agreement. 

But bills such as HB 101, which would have provided $350,000 to help adult victims of human trafficking and its companion bill, SB 66, which would have provided $250,000 to help minors who are victims of human traffickers both failed in committee.

Democratic Rep. Debbie Armstrong, who sponsored HB 101, said human trafficking is “an important issue” and there is a “growing need,” for money to help the victims. But money for the bills didn’t make it into the budget.

Armstrong said she will try again.

Additional human trafficking bills that didn’t make it were HB 232 and HB 237, both of which were ‘get tough on crime’ bills. HB 232 would have increased penalties for human trafficking. It never made it to committee. But the House passed HB 237 unanimously. HB 237 added human trafficking as an offense requiring enrollment on the state’s registered sex offender list. It also would have meant that a person registered as a sex offender in another state would have had to register in New Mexico.

Both of these bills were put on the session’s agenda by  Lujan Grisham.

Another bill that could have cracked down on human trafficking, HB 155, would have required massage therapy establishments to become licensed in the state. Democratic Rep. Linda Trujillo, of Santa Fe, sponsored that bill. She said Thursday she wanted to give the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulation time to get input from the massage therapy industry. She didn’t want, as an unintended consequence, for the bill to force health clinics, which might employ one or more massage therapists, to have to seek a license to operate as a massage therapy establishment.

Massage therapy establishments sometimes are places where people and children are human trafficked. But law enforcement needs probable cause to enter such an establishment. The bill, had it passed, would have meant state inspections and the state would then be in a position to report suspicious activity to authorities.

“It’s important to strike a balance between public safety and economic development,” Trujillo said.

Other reproductive justice bills that failed to make it through both chambers were President Pro Tempore Mary Kay Papen’s contraceptive bill that would have increased awareness of and access to long-acting reversible contraception. A Paid Family Medical Leave bill was never heard in committee. A bill to help victims of domestic violence or sexual assault to opt out of a lease agreement without penalty if the home no longer felt safe for the victim and a bill that would have changed the statute of limitations for certain crimes against children also failed. A bill that would have created a $125 million fund to help the underinsured and the uninsured in New Mexico died at the Senate Finance Committee.