If Curtis Boyd lives by one professional mantra, it’s this: Unless a woman has full autonomy over her body, she lacks full citizenship and lives instead as a second-class citizen. The controversial and celebrated abortion provider explains this thoughtfully on a hot, dry Fourth of July day in his Albuquerque office. A wiry man of 80 years, Boyd wears a gray surgical gown and says he’s working the holiday because the type of procedure that his clinic, Southwestern Women’s Options, is known for requires multiple days. The clinic sits near I-25 on Lomas Boulevard, a crowded east-west thoroughfare on the edge of downtown Albuquerque. Across the street looms a pink billboard paid for by the group Prolife Across America.
After a long committee meeting and often-times emotional testimony from the public on a controversial bill to ban abortions on pregnancies of 20 or more weeks of gestation, lawmakers on the Senate Public Affairs Committee quickly tabled the legislation on a party line vote. Neither the committee chair nor vice chair—Sens. Jerry Ortiz y Pino or Bill O’Neill, both Democrats from Albuquerque—nor any of the three Republican members actually spoke about the issue during debate. And the three remaining Democrats—Sens. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque, Liz Stefanics of Santa Fe and Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces—kept their comments on the issue succinct before joining their other Democratic colleagues to table the bill.
A controversial congressional panel investigating abortion practices in New Mexico and the across the country is under scrutiny for its tactics and mission from some of its own members. In a report released this week titled “Setting the Record Straight: The Unjustifiable Attack on Women’s Health Care and Life-Saving Research,” Democratic members of the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives skewered the majority in the committee for using “McCarthy-era tactics” to conduct “an end-to-end attack on fetal tissue donation and women’s health care.”
The Select Panel, chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, earlier this year sought subpoenas from Southwestern Women’s Options and the University of New Mexico and recommended the state Attorney General open a criminal investigation into the health clinic’s fetal tissue donation policy to the university. Related: Lawsuit alleges clinic donated fetal tissue without woman’s consent
Congressional Republicans formed the Select Panel after controversial, heavily edited videos of Planned Parenthood by anti-abortion activists went viral in 2015. Those videos led to unproven claims that abortion clinics across the country were selling fetal tissue for profit. The Select Panel is expected to release a final report on its investigation into fetal tissue donations before Congress adjourns later this month, according to Special Panel spokesman Mike Reynard.
For the second time this legislative session, a Republican broke ranks with his party to vote down legislation aimed at further regulating abortion procedures in the state. Rep. James Smith, R-Sandia Park, voted against a House memorial asking three state agencies to coordinate reporting when infants who show signs of life outside of the womb after abortion procedures. “If you were bringing a bill banning late-term abortion, I’d be with this,” Smith told sponsor and Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, in committee. “But this is concerning.”
Smith joined three Democrats Monday afternoon in the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee in tabling Montoya’s memorial on a 4-3 vote. During debate, Montoya mentioned how the University of New Mexico, which provides abortions during the first and second trimester of pregnancies, likely is not practicing “the particular abortion procedure that is producing born alive infants.”
Smith responded that the Legislature isn’t the correct body to “go after a potential violator” if it didn’t know who the violator was or if a violation was happening.
Last week, a Republican lawmaker made headlines for siding with Democrats in killing an abortion bill. But in an apparent about-face Thursday morning, that same lawmaker attempted to revive and pass the same controversial bill. “Having voted in the affirmative with the majority, I want to remove [House Bill 275] from the table and make it the next order of business,” Rep. Andy Nuñez said in the House Health Committee. Nuñez was referring to the “Require Medical Care for All Infants” measure that would legally define when infants are “born alive” and mandate emergency medical intervention for them. Nuñez’ motion failed 5-5 in the committee, which is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.
An hours-long debate over legislation that would bar late-term abortions in New Mexico led to the same fate as last year—a Senate committee party line vote against the measures. The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted 5-4 to table two bills by Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, that would have banned surgical abortion procedures on viable fetuses at 20 weeks of gestation or more. One of the bills defines fetal viability as “when the life of the unborn child may be continued indefinitely by natural or artificial life-supportive systems.”
Related Story: Doritos part of abortion debate in Senate committee
Albuquerque is home to an abortion provider that practices the procedure into the third trimester of pregnancy. Sharer passed out pictures of his granddaughter Scarlett, who was born premature, to committee members during his presentation. He asked committee members what if Scarlett’s mother today was diagnosed with a terrible disease, evoking common arguments from pro-abortion rights advocates that late-term abortion procedures often involve pregnant women whose lives are in danger.
A brand of flavored tortilla chips more closely aligned with teenagers and late night dorm studies than politics made an appearance in the debate on abortion on Tuesday. During public comment on abortion legislation in front of the Senate Public Affairs Committee, two anti-abortion activists mentioned Doritos during public comment. One even held up an empty bag of Doritos to make her point. Why? Well, because of a Doritos Super Bowl ad involving an ultrasound and a father eating Doritos out of a bag in the examination room.
A Republican whose vote helped stop a bill aimed at defining “born alive” and mandating how doctors treat “born alive” babies, is staying tightlipped on the thinking behind his vote on Saturday. Rep. Andy Nuñez, R-Hatch, wouldn’t go into detail with NM Political Report on why he broke party lines and voted to table the bill. “It’s just what I was doing,” Nuñez said of his vote. Nuñez wouldn’t elaborate on his vote, but did say he didn’t see the proposal—sponsored by Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington—as an “abortion bill.”
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.
Testimony got heated during the hearing of a bill that would legally define when an infant is “born alive” and require emergency medical intervention if so. Public testimony over the bill, which is aimed at regulating late term abortion procedures, got so long that House Health Committee Chairman Terry McMillan, R-Las Cruces, delayed debate and a committee vote to another day. “I expect at least an hour of question and debate on this issue,” McMillan said. The bill defines “born alive” as an infant showing signs of life that include breathing, a heartbeat, a pulse in an umbilical cord or muscle movement. It applies to infants that show these signs after abortions, as well as births and cesarean sections.