February 23, 2023

Bill to protect reproductive, gender-affirming care patients and providers passes first committee hearing

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

A bill to protect abortion and gender-affirming care providers from out-of-state forces passed the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee by a 5-3 party vote on Wednesday.

SB 13,  seeks to protect abortion providers and gender-affirming care providers in New Mexico from civil or criminal liability and from discrimination by licensing boards and from other states where reproductive care or gender-affirming care are not protected. State Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, is the bill’s primary sponsor.

This is the second of two reproductive rights bills introduced into the Legislature this session. The first one to go through committee hearings, HB 7, Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare, passed the House floor Tuesday evening by a vote of 38 to 31.

Related: Bill to protect reproductive, gender-affirming healthcare passes House

SB 13 would codify into law Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s executive order, made last year, to protect providers and patients from out-of-state forces seeking data from abortion providers. 

“The bill in front of us is protecting a person’s ability to access reproductive healthcare. It could be abortion care, it could be gender-affirming care. We want to make sure access is open, open in New Mexico for those coming from neighboring states. This is here to protect our providers for providing the necessary care being asked for,” Lopez said.

Some Democrats on the committee spoke in favor of the bill. State Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, said she is proud to be a co-sponsor of the bill.

Republicans argued that the bill would negatively impact standards of care for abortion providers in the state. State Sen. Gregg Schmedes, R-Rio Rancho, made statements about the bill unnecessarily protecting abortion providers.

“If potentially someone is alleging malpractice or harm, if that harm is in this area of healthcare, this is creating extra barriers,” Schmedes said.

State Sen. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, asked about what protections exist in the bill for a patient who is treated by a negligent provider.

Expert witness Randi McGinn, an attorney, said that any claimant, under tort law, could make a claim of negligence against a doctor.

Schmedes also argued against adopting a “gender-affirming care model” and codifying it into law.

“We can disagree with the subject but still protect people from harm,” he said and asked Lopez if she would consider an amendment that would change the section of the bill that refers to gender-affirming healthcare to say psychological, behavioral and medical care to gender nonconforming or gender dysphoria?

Lopez said she preferred “to stay with the language in the bill.”

Gallegos also took issue with committee chair Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, because some of the individuals who wanted to speak in opposition to the bill through social media had unreliable internet and were unable to have their say.

“Your system is not working,” Gallegos said.

State Sen. John Hickey, D-Albuquerque, said “we need to respect their viewpoints about gender and how people identify and what they’ve experienced. I want to emphasize the freedom of that lived experience. This bill is very important given where we are now,” he said.

The bill heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee next.