Legislature approved two major reproductive, gender-affirming care bills

The Legislature passed two major reproductive rights bills this legislative session, one of which went to the governor’s desk in the final days. Both bills increase protections in the state for both reproductive healthcare and gender-affirming care. As of February 1, 2023, there are 17 states that have put some protections in place for abortion […]

Legislature approved two major reproductive, gender-affirming care bills

The Legislature passed two major reproductive rights bills this legislative session, one of which went to the governor’s desk in the final days.

Both bills increase protections in the state for both reproductive healthcare and gender-affirming care. As of February 1, 2023, there are 17 states that have put some protections in place for abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham already signed HB 7, the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare Act, into law. It prohibits public bodies from discriminating against individuals seeking reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare. 

There are two towns, Clovis and Hobbs, and two counties, Lincoln and Roosevelt, that have passed ordinances that have placed barriers to clinics that provide abortions from obtaining a business license. Currently, there are no clinics that perform abortions anywhere in eastern New Mexico. But after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe, some towns and counties in eastern New Mexico began to consider these ordinances. 

Otero County was the first to take action by passing a resolution making Otero County a so-called “sanctuary for the unborn” county in July of last year. Alamogordo quickly followed suit by passing a similar resolution and passing a second resolution supporting Otero County’s resolution. Such resolutions can be effective in sending a signal to a prospective clinic that it would face hostility.

The new state law will enable individuals to sue public entities, such as municipalities and counties, for discrimination and carry fines of $5,000 or actual damages, whichever is greater. The law also allows the plaintiff to collect attorney’s fees if the plaintiff is successful in their suit.

That part of the bill underwent some debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but expert witness Ellie Rushforth, an attorney with American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said that by including that into the bill it makes it possible for an individual who lacks financial resources to hire a lawyer to still bring a suit.

Lujan Grisham signed the bill on Thursday and said in a statement that “New Mexicans in every corner of our state deserve protections for their bodily autonomy and right to health care.”

Serrato said, through a news release, that the legislation “removes unnecessary barriers and protects access to essential healthcare.” Serrato previously told NM Political Report that the passage of this bill would ensure there would not be a “patchwork” of reproductive rights within the state.

Kat Sanchez, policy manager for Bold Futures New Mexico, said that as “a queer woman of color, I am incredibly proud that we can show the nation what it means to value and protect a person in all their identities receiving care.”

The other major reproductive care bill, sponsored by state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, passed the House on the last full day of the legislative session.

This bill, which is waiting for Lujan Grisham’s signature, will protect both providers and patients from what the bill’s sponsors called “the overreach” of other states attempting investigations into either reproductive healthcare providers in this state or their patients. Called the Reproductive Health Provider Protections, the bill says that no public entities will respond to other state’s subpoenas or other efforts to obtain information about either providers or patients.

Lujan Grisham is widely expected to sign the bill. It codifies the executive order she put into place within days of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade last summer. The legislation will enable both providers and patients to be protected in this state regardless of who is governor.

Violation of the legislation would result in a $10,000 fine. In addition, an individual or entity who claims to be aggrieved by abusive litigation may file an action in New Mexico district court and seek relief. Abusive litigation is defined as legal action initiated by an out-of-state source to “deter, prevent, sanction or penalize” an individual or entity who is seeking or performing reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare in this state.

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