“Personal Exemptions” Widen Reach of Abortion Bills [UPDATED]
“We are now seeing the direct consequences of the 2014 elections. With a Republican in the Speaker’s seat in our House of Representatives, New Mexicans must now face these regressive policies. We should not be passing legislation on these issues at the state level.”
House Minority Leader Brian Egolf
[UPDATE]: Both of the anti-abortion bills discussed in this article — HB 390 and HB 391 — were tabled in their first Senate committee. Read more about what happened from the New Mexico Political Report HERE.
Abortion is back in New Mexico’s spotlight. After a decisive defeat of an anti-abortion measure in Albuquerque pushed by out-of-state activists in 2013, those same activists have yoked themselves to a group of Republican state legislators and are attempting to destroy reproductive choice one bill at a time.
Yesterday we profiled what happened in the Senate Public Affairs Committee earlier in the week regarding a sneaky anti-abortion bill that would have had detrimental consequences for women and medical providers. Luckily, it was defeated.
Now, let’s switch our attention back over to the House where two outlandish anti-abortion bills are poised to pass through that chamber tomorrow.
The first bill is almost identical to the one defeated in Albuquerque in 2013. But that hasn’t stopped Rep. Yvette Herrell from carrying HB 390, which would outlaw abortions later in pregnancy.
In addition to the bill being completely unnecessary (abortions later in pregnancy account for only 1% of all abortions and when women do seek these types of abortions they overwhelmingly do so because of serious medical risks or other complex circumstances), HB 390 includes a disturbing clause tucked away in its nether regions that would allow pharmacists (or other medical staff) to arbitrarily refuse medications to women based on moral or personal grounds.
The professed reason for this clause is to make sure pharmacists with personal objections to abortion won’t have to dispense medication that “will result in the termination of a pregnancy.”
While RU-486 or the morning-after pill are the ostensible targets of such a clause (completely safe, legal medications BTW), certain people with certain convictions could use such legal language to deny birth control pills or IUDs, etc.
The House Democratic Caucus today released a statement about these “personal conviction” exemptions:
The “personal conviction” exemption has not been seen in other states and is far outside the typical debate on such measures. Both bills have passed two House Committees and head to the House Floor. Both House Bill 390, a 20 week abortion ban; and House Bill 391, forced parental notification, include the dispensing exemptions below:
A hospital or medical facility shall not be required to admit any patient for the purposes of performing an abortion. A person who is a member of, or associated with, the staff of a hospital or any medical facility; any person under the direction of a physician; any pharmacist or any person under the direction of a pharmacist; or any employee of a hospital or any medical facility in which an abortion will be performed who objects to the abortion on moral, religious or personal conviction grounds shall not be required to participate in medical procedures, including the dispensing of medication, that will result in the termination of pregnancy.
Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have created a wide interpretation of abortive contraception. Contraception that could be denied under the “personal conviction” exemption could consist of regularly used birth control, an intrauterine device (IUD), and emergency contraception. The exemption language raises the question of which other types of health care professionals in New Mexico could refuse to perform certain duties under the claim of a personal conviction, including pharmaceutical drug manufacturers.
And here’s what Rep. Debbie Armstrong — who is currently carrying a bill that would ensure access to healthcare services for women with the goal of reducing unintended pregnancies and abortions — had to say about the bills:
House Republicans will stop at nothing to attack the personal decision that belongs to a woman, her family, and her doctor,” said Representative Deborah Armstrong. “In addition to limiting access to abortion, these bills include an exemption that would allow any pharmacist with a ‘personal conviction’ to deny medication to women, which could lead to profiling or other discriminatory practices. For example, a pharmacist with a ‘personal conviction’ could deny medication to women based on race or other factors, such as obesity. House Republicans have gone too far.
The second bill would require forced parental notification for young women seeking an abortion, imposing the government where it just doesn’t belong. HB 391 is sponsored by Rep. Alonzo Baldonado. (And, as stated above, HB 391 also includes a “personal conviction” exemption.)
Forced parental notification is another wholly unnecessary policy with potentially vast ramifications were it to pass.
Young women who are pregnant already do consult with their parents or trusted adults, to the tune of 81%.  And if a young woman is not in a safe enough family situation to feel comfortable consulting her parents, how is forcing her to do so going to help?
Everyone’s situation is vastly different and we all operate within particular family dynamics. Forced parental notification doesn’t account for those particularities.
These kinds of bills simply do not respect women, their families, or their decisions. The decision to have an abortion is a heart wrenching one, but it’s one that should be made by a woman herself, with the support of her family, in consultation with her doctor, and with respect to her faith. The government has no place dictating the personal choices of New Mexico’s women.