By Jacob Comello
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Since the end of January, the legislatures of New York, Virginia and other states have made headlines by approving or introducing policies that relax abortion restrictions, even in the third trimester and during labor.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in Mississippi passed a pair of bills that would prohibit abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected — which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant indicated earlier this year he would sign such a bill into law.
Similar bills are making their ways through the legislatures in five other states, mostly in the Southeast.
Last year the state passed one of the most restrictive laws in the nation to ban abortions after 15 weeks, but that ban was halted by a federal judge. State Attorney General Jim Hood said at that time he would appeal to have the law reinstated.Pro-Life Mississippi immediately praised the passage of the bills. “We thank all our representatives and senators who helped on the Mississippi Bill HB732 and SB2116 to ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected. We pray that others will check their heart and see the importance of saving lives in Mississippi,” organization president Laura Duran wrote in a press release.
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.
The “Decriminalize Abortion Bill,” or H.B. 51, has now made its way through the New Mexico House of Representatives, receiving the body’s overall approval in a 40-29 floor vote Feb. 6 after being confirmed by several committees. It is now headed for the Senate, where it will be the subject of further debate and another vote.
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 permits 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 register moral or religious objections to performing the procedure.
Most of these were invalidated already by Roe v. Wade or the New Mexico Court of Appeals, giving New Mexico some of the laxest abortion policy in the country.
But if Roe v. Wade is eventually overturned, this state law would ensure that abortion would be available on-demand in New Mexico.
In multiple statements, the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops has condemned the bill and urged Catholics in the state’s three dioceses to take action against it.
In one statement released before H.B. 51 had passed the House Judiciary Committee, the bishops criticized the bill as a whole but especially the portions that would be in effect even without a Roe v. Wade repeal. For example, as per the Jan. 31 release, “H.B. 51 guarantees that parents will NOT be involved in their minor daughter’s abortion,” which the bishops see as extremely damaging and opening the door to abuse.
Additionally, in that statement 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 statement 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 Mexican opinion. Included were claims 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.”
After H.B. 51 had cleared the House, the bishops released another statement, again denouncing the elimination of religious protections, which would be enforceable without a Roe overturn: “Two parts of the statute are not void by the U.S. Supreme Court and are enforced. We oppose H.B. 51 and urge our legislators to protect the conscience of our health care workers and protect women by maintaining the conscience clause and requirement of the doctor.”
By Jacob Comello