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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Since the end of January, the legislatures of New York, Virginia and other states have made headlines by approving or introducing measures that relax restrictions on abortion, allowing it even in the third trimester of pregnancy and during labor.
Now New Mexico is one step closer to passing a similar bill that loosens the state's already liberal abortion laws and would erase virtually all abortion restrictions in the event that the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade is overturned.
On Jan. 31, the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops sent out a news release urging Catholics in the state's three dioceses to oppose New Mexico H.B. 51, titled the "Decriminalize Abortion Bill." Specifically, the bishops implored the faithful to "please come to the hearing to offer your testimony opposing this bill" before reeling off a list of the provision's drawbacks.
The hearing, which took place before New Mexico's House Judiciary Committee Feb.1, ended in a party-line vote where the bill was endorsed by a margin of 10-4, as reported by LifeNews.com. Notably, the committee's chairwoman, Democratic Rep. Gail Chasey, forbade some pro-life advocates from testifying.
The piece of legislation is now bound for the full New Mexico House of Representatives.
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican daily newspaper, there are three main parts of New Mexico's pre-Roe abortion law that would be invalidated by the act: a prohibition that makes abortion a felony; language that permitted abortions in some circumstances as determined by a physician, such as rape or threat to a mother's life; and an opt-out provision for hospitals or providers that registered moral or religious objections to performing the procedure.
Most of these were already invalidated by Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, or by the New Mexico Court of Appeals, giving New Mexico some of the laxest abortion policies in the country.
But if Roe v. Wade is eventually overturned, these proposed changes to existing state law would ensure that abortion would be available on demand in New Mexico.
The news release from the state Catholic conference took issue with many finer details of the bill, some of which would be effective even without a Roe v. Wade repeal. For example, as per the release, "H.B. 51 guarantees that parents will not be involved in their minor daughter's abortion," which the conference said the state's bishops see as extremely damaging and opening the door to abuse.
Additionally, the bishops lamented the lack of protections for doctors who object to abortion on moral or religious grounds: "H.B. 51 strips away the only explicit conscience protection for doctors and other medical professionals that protect them from being forced to participate in abortions. ... Medical professionals should not have to worry that the state of New Mexico and private companies could have the power to force them to choose between their faith and their profession."
The New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops represents the state's Catholic bishops on public policy matters. New Mexico has three dioceses: the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and the dioceses of La Cruces and Gallup, which includes part of Arizona.
The confrence's news release included statistics collected from the New Mexico Alliance for Life, which seemed to demonstrate that the principles of the bill are not attuned to New Mexicans' opinion. It said that "67 percent of New Mexicans support parental involvement in a minor's abortion" and that "70 percent of New Mexicans oppose allowing abortions after five months up to birth."
The New Mexico House of Representatives currently has 70 members, composed of 46 Democrats and 24 Republicans.