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New Mexico governor signs bill to preserve abortion rights

February 26, 2021 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday signed a bill to shore up abortion rights in New Mexico, saying a woman has the right to make decisions about her own body.

The legislation, which won final approval from the Democratic-led Legislature last week, overturns a dormant 1969 ban on most abortion procedures. Had the old statute been left in place, New Mexico’s ban on most abortion procedures would have gone into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court eventually overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

Lujan Grisham’s signature is no surprise as she had vowed to sign the measure as soon as it reached her desk.

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“Anyone who seeks to violate bodily integrity, or to criminalize womanhood, is in the business of dehumanization. New Mexico is not in that business — not any more. Our state statutes now reflect this inviolable recognition of humanity and dignity,” she said in a statement.

Abortion bans have been proposed in at least 10 states with Republican-led Legislatures that could test where the current U.S. Supreme Court stands after the appointment of three conservative justices by former President Donald Trump.

In New Mexico, a heavily Roman Catholic state, Democrats control every statewide office, the state Supreme Court and most congressional seats.

The legislation has implications for women who cross state lines for abortions in New Mexico, with out-of-state visitors accounting for 25% of statewide abortions in 2017. A clinic in Albuquerque is one of only a few independent facilities in the country that perform abortions close to the third trimester without conditions.

Republican Sen. Crystal Diamond of Elephant Butte argued that the measure weakens standards of care for women and strips conscience protections for medical professionals.

“New Mexico women and children deserve better,” she said in a statement.

The 52-year-old abortion statute allowed medical termination of a pregnancy with permission of a specialized hospital board only in instances of incest, rape reported to police, grave medical risks to the woman and indications of grave medical defects in the fetus. The law has been dormant since 1973, when the Roe v. Wade decision was issued and overrode state laws that banned or severely restricted access to abortion procedures.

The legislative deliberations in recent weeks included pro-abortion rights comments from female legislators who make up a majority of the House chamber and the Democratic caucus. The House passed the measure on a 40-30 vote, with six Democrats joining Republicans in opposition.

The state Senate approved the bill the previous week with a 25-17 vote.

Five Democratic state senators who joined Republicans to keep the abortion law in place in 2019 were ousted from office last year.