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Bill preventing public bodies from interfering in reproductive and gender-affirming care advances

two women with an audience in the background
Alice Fordham
Dr. Molly McClain, left, and Representative Linda Serrato appear before the House Health and Human Services Committee

A bill that would prevent public bodies like city councils restricting access to reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare is moving forward after a House Health and Human Services Committee hearing today.

House Bill 7 was written after city and county ordinances in Eastern New Mexico restricted access to abortion, even though the procedure remains legal in the state.

"It's extremely important that, especially in reproductive health care and gender affirming health care, that people know that they have a right and they are able to access it," bill sponsor Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, told KUNM. "We do not want to put up more stigmas or fears around accessing these types of health care that are truly life saving health care."

Republican representatives on the committee said that their constituents had many concerns about the bill, questioning what impact it would have on teachers, nurses and even firefighters, all of whom are part of public bodies.

Ellie Rushforth, a lawyer at the ACLU, said the law does not create any duty to provide care. Rather it ensures public bodies are not able to get in the way of somebody accessing legally protected health care.

She said the bill clarifies that educational institutions, for instance, aren't allowed to discriminate against a student as a result of their seeking such healthcare.

The bill passed on a 7-3 vote, along party lines, and now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

Alice Fordham joined the news team in 2022 after a career as an international correspondent, reporting for NPR from the Middle East and later Latin America and Europe. She also worked as a podcast producer for The Economist among other outlets, and tries to meld a love of sound and storytelling with solid reporting on the community. She grew up in the U.K. and has a small jar of Marmite in her kitchen for emergencies.
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