A push to overturn an old, unenforceable abortion law failed at the Roundhouse this year.House Bill 51 would have struck from the state code a law from the 1960s that …
A push to overturn an old, unenforceable abortion law failed at the Roundhouse this year.
House Bill 51 would have struck from the state code a law from the 1960s that criminalized performing an abortion. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade in 1973, the New Mexico law became a moot point. But with conservative justices gaining ground on the court and the landmark abortion ruling within striking distance, some worry the half-century-old law could again become significant.
HB51 passed overwhelmingly in the state House of Representatives by a margin of 40 to 29. Reps. Roberto "Bobby" Gonzales (D-Ranchos de Taos) and Susan Herrera (D-Embudo) voted in favor of decriminalizing abortion.
However, the bill failed in the Senate by a vote of 18 to 24.
Sen. Carlos Cisneros (D-Questa) sided with Republicans and a handful of Democrats to defeat the bill, despite having said he would vote to decriminalize abortion.
In a Jan. 12 email to The Taos News, Cisneros called the current law "an archaic statute" that "discriminates against doctors and medical practitioners," saying he intended to vote to repeal it.
However, when the vote came up in the last days of the session, he voted against decriminalization.
"At the time, the votes were not there to pass the legislation, so I essentially just voted against [it]," he said in a March 26 phone interview.
He indicated the bill was premature, as Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land. But he added, "There will be a time when we do just need to do something."
"Until that is overturned, we don't need to completely legalize abortion," he said.
Herrera was surprised by the Senate vote, she said. "I don't think the state ought to decide how you live your life. We'll see what happens [next session]," she said.
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