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NM would remain a safe haven for abortion and trans health care under approved bill

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A sign on Interstate 40 welcomes drivers to New Mexico from Arizona — one of several surrounding states that have enacted abortion restrictions since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year. New Mexico legislators passed a law Friday that would enshrine in law protections for abortion clinicians and patients from other states, protecting them from harassment, threats, discipline or criminalization for care provided or received in New Mexico. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who issued an executive order with similar protections last year, is expected to sign the bill into law.

Following an hours-long debate, the New Mexico House passed a bill Friday to protect those who provide or seek abortions or gender-affirming care in the state. The measure would enshrine in law safeguards for out-of-state patients and clinicians issued by executive order after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

New Mexico neighbors several states with strict limits on abortion care and, last June, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared the state a safe haven for reproductive health care providers and patients from elsewhere, including refusing possible extradition attempts for care provided within New Mexico.

“As long as I'm Governor, everyone in the state of New Mexico will be protected,” she said at a news conference announcing the executive order. “And abortion is and will continue to be legal, safe and accessible.”

A bill now awaiting her signature would ensure those safeguards from discipline or criminalization remain in place regardless of who’s governor. It would do the same for trans people seeking transition-related care and those who provide it.

“This is affirmatively protecting what we’re seeing with egregious and predatory laws that are being passed across the country, where they’re trying to criminalize care,” said Rep. Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe) while introducing the bill on the House floor.

There have been 90 bills that ban gender-affirming care for minors introduced across the country this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. And NPR reports five Republican-led states have signed such bans into law.

Senate Bill 13 also builds on Lujan Grisham’s executive order. It shields people and organizations from having their information related to this care shared electronically in a way meant to harass, humiliate or intimidate them. Making someone fear for their own or their family’s safety in this way would also violate the act.

A person who believes their rights under this law have been violated would be able to sue in district court for relief and damages or $10,000 per violation, whichever is greater.

More than half of the over 3-hour debate was taken up by Rep. Rod Montoya (R- San Juan). He eventually introduced a failed amendment to remove these protections for “entities,” such as clinics, while maintaining them for individuals.

“This goes too far,” he said of protecting entities. “No business is free of harassment. They can be harassed.”

He argued the provision could infringe on the free speech rights of those who organize protests against abortion clinics on social media or by group chat.

Romero defended the inclusion of health care organizations in the bill language, saying they could otherwise be vulnerable to sanctions, lawsuits or criminal penalties outside New Mexico.

“We want good business to happen in our state,” she said. “And if we don’t protect those entities providing that care, they could be subject to all of that.”

The bill passed on a 38-30 vote with Republicans and some Democrats in opposition and now heads to the governor, who is expected to sign it.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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