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Bill to protect access to abortion and transgender care heads to Senate committees

a group of protestors outside a building, a man in the foreground holds a pink sign with the words LET THE PEOPLE VOTE in capital letters
Laura Wight
Eastern New Mexico Rising
A photograph supplied by Eastern New Mexico Rising shows a demonstration against an ordinance restricting abortion in Portales NM

A bill intended to protect access to abortion and care for transgender people is heading to the Senate Health and Public Affairs and Judiciary Committees, where it will likely be discussed next month.

House Bill 7, sponsored by five Democratic legislators, passed the House on Tuesday night after about three hours of debate.

Sponsor Linda Serrato (D-Santa Fe) told the House that the proposed legislation, "ensures that we are not adding fear to the host of reasons people have trouble accessing health care in our state.

"It simply prohibits public bodies from discriminating against individuals who choose or refuse to use reproductive or gender-affirming health care, including abortion care," she said.

House Minority Leader Ryan Lane (R-Aztec) raised concerns about the language in the bill that would prevent an agent of a public body from directly or indirectly interfering with access to reproductive care or care for a transgender person.

He asked whether the prohibition of indirect interference would require someone like a teacher or school nurse to provide reproductive or gender-affirming health care to a child.

Serrato said that public employees were not obliged to do anything that they would not otherwise do. She added the bill would mean public employees could not discriminate against anyone for accessing such care, or interfere with them accessing it.

Lane said that Serrato was really arguing that the proposed law prohibits local governmental entities from passing ordinances that would prohibit access to reproductive or gender care.

"Whether that's something that local government should be in the business of, if that's all we were discussing, and that's all the bill did, then I think this would be probably a much quicker discussion," he said.

But he expressed concern that the bill was broader in its scope. He and other Republicans proposed four amendments, including one that would have made its provisions apply only to adults. None of the amendments was successful.

The bill passed by 38 votes to 31. All the Republicans and six Democrats present voted against it.

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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