Pro-choice advocates reeling over their unexpected defeat in the New Mexico legislature may have the uproar over late-term abortion bills in New York and Virginia to blame.
Eight New Mexico Democrats crossed party lines Thursday to sink a bill aimed at codifying the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, handing a win to the pro-life movement and a stinging defeat to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on one of her signature issues.
The New Mexico Senate voted 24-18 against H.B. 51, a month after the House approved the measure by a vote of 40-29. Six House Democrats voted against it.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called the outcome “a stunning victory for pro-lifers,” and praised Democrats who “dealt one of the most significant blows of the year to the extreme abortion camp.”
“New Mexico’s bill was supposed to be a slam dunk. But after New York, nothing on abortion is a sure thing — not anymore,” said Mr. Perkins in a Friday post.
New Mexico Democrats had viewed 2018 as the year to expand abortion rights after a November election sweep that saw them pick up seats in the legislature and replace term-limited Republican Gov. Susana Martinez with the Democrat Grisham.
The pro-choice legislation was billed as nothing more than a repeal of a dormant 1969 law making it a felony to perform abortions except in certain cases, which supporters said could become enforceable if President Trump’s judicial picks overturn Roe.
Foes saw the measure as far more radical, threatening to remove the state’s conscience protection for medical professionals who object to performing or participating in abortions, and enshrining into law the state’s no-limits status quo.
New Mexico Alliance for Life executive director Elisa Martinez characterized H.B. 51 as “the most extreme abortion up to birth bill in the country.”
Still, the measure was expected to coast to victory until the events in New York and Virginia. A New York bill clearing the path for late-term abortion was signed in January as supporters cheered, a widely publicized scene decried as ghoulish.
The Virginia legislation was derailed after the sponsor admitted that it would allow abortion during labor. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, a former pediatric surgeon, inflamed the outcry by appearing to suggest afterward that babies who survived abortions could be left to die.
“Quite frankly, I think the backlash has been tremendous,” said Ms. Martinez. “I think this has awakened a sleeping giant in the wake of the Virginia and New York abortion bills. Finally, it’s shedding light on what’s going on here in New Mexico.”
One of the Democrats who voted against the New Mexico bill, state Sen. Gabriel Ramos, said it was “one of the toughest decisions any of us will ever have to make.”
In the end, however, “I stand unified against legislation that weakens the defense of life and threatens the dignity of the human being,” said Mr. Ramos in the Albuquerque Journal.
Ms. Grisham was stunned by the bill’s defeat. “Health care decisions are the sole province of an individual, her family, her doctor and her faith. Fear of the law has no place in the equation,” she said in a statement after the Senate vote.
“This old, outdated statute criminalizing health care providers is an embarrassment,” the governor continued. “That removing it was even a debate, much less a difficult vote for some senators, is inexplicable to me.”
Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico called the defeat “heartbreaking,” but pledged “to keep fighting, because we know that New Mexicans overwhelmingly support access to safe and legal abortion care across the state.”
In addition to Mr. Ramos, the eight Senate Democrats who voted against H.B. 51 are state Sens. Pete Campos, Carlos Cisneros, Richard Martinez, George Munoz, Mary Kay Papen, Clemente Sanchez, and John Arthur Smith.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, praised “the eight courageous Democrats who stood up to party leaders both in New Mexico and across the nation.”
“We rejoice with the people of New Mexico for this decisive pro-life victory,” said Ms. Dannenfelser. “The modern Democratic Party’s agenda of abortion on demand through the moment of birth and even beyond is deeply unpopular with the majority of Americans, including rank and file Democrats.”
Other bills aimed at codifying the Roe decision are pending in Illinois, Rhode Island and Vermont.