New Mexico Democrats in committee this week put an end to legislation to outlaw abortion after 20 weeks in a state with one of the nation’s few clinics offering third-trimester terminations, a perennial target of anti-choice legislators.
SB 183 would have created a legal presumption that “viability occurs at the 20th week of pregnancy,” although a 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that all infants born before 22 weeks gestation died within 12 hours of birth.
The Republican-backed legislation would have only permitted abortions after 20 weeks in cases of life endangerment. Violators would have faced civil penalties of at least $500 and the suspension or loss of a medical license.
At least 19 states have enacted 20-week bans.
State Sen. Liz Stefanics (D-Santa Fe), who voted to shelve the measure, said she was “touched” by constituent emails “from women having to make a decision” to end a pregnancy, as New Mexico Political Report reported.
“Regardless of what decisions they had to make, it was still the women’s decision,” Stefanics said.
Proponents of the bill talked about what they described as the shame and regret of abortion.
“I have counseled 100 women and not a single one is proud of their abortions,” said Laura Rosecrans, a self-described abortion counselor.
A study published last year in JAMA Psychiatry suggests those denied wanted abortions had worse mental health than those able to end a pregnancy.
Democrats hold a majority in both of New Mexico’s legislative chambers.
“A majority of New Mexico residents support the ability of a woman to make this personal decision and voters have shown that,” Marshall Martinez, public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains in New Mexico, told Rewire.
Albuquerque voters in 2013 rejected a city ballot measure to outlaw abortion after 20 weeks called the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance.” However, anti-choice groups like the National Right to Life Committee, which back the idea that a fetus experiences pain, have had recent success in enshrining that concept into law.
The consensus among the medical establishment is that a fetal nervous system is not developed until the third trimester, and cannot feel pain.
SB 183 was co-sponsored by state Sen. William Sharer (R-Farmington), who authored a 20-week ban last year that senate Democrats shot down, as Rewire reported. In public testimony on that bill, anti-choice proponents twice invoked a 2016 Doritos Super Bowl ad that depicted an animated fetus, arguing .
A GOP-led 20-week ban proposal in 2015 also failed.