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Senate passes bill to prevent obstruction of gender and reproductive healthcare

The New Mexico Roundhouse legislative building
Alice Fordham

After more than two-and-a-half hours of debate, House Bill 7, designed to protect access to reproductive healthcare and care for transgender people, passed the Senate Tuesday.

The bill would prevent public bodies from discriminating against people who seek or refuse reproductive or gender-affirming care. It also prohibits public bodies from passing regulations that would conflict with a person's right to access such care.

Bill sponsor Sen. Katy Duhigg (D-Bernalillo) said that the legislation was necessary to ensure that all people in New Mexico have the same ability to access these kinds of care.

"Right now it is a patchwork of access across New Mexico, because we have some local governments who are seeking to implement ordinances and laws and policies that would block access," she said.

Counties and cities in the east of the state have passed ordinances restricting access to abortion. Sen. Crystal Diamond (R-Doña Ana) defended the actions of the local officials.

"It's really just in the direct response to some of our local communities by locally elected officials, representing and carrying the voice of their constituents, that they don't want to offer the service," she said.

Sen. Diamond also introduced an amendment to the bill, which would have required parental consent for the provision of gender-affirming or abortion care to minors.

Sen. Duhigg said the amendment would conflict with at least five existing laws. It did not pass, and nor did six other amendments proposed by Republicans.

Several senators shared personal stories ranging from coming out, to helping a pregnant daughter who decided not to have an abortion, to supporting a transgender child. The bill passed by 23 votes to 15.

Since the bill was amended in the Senate Judiciary Committee, it now goes back to the House for agreement with the amendments.

Copyright 2023 KUNM

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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