NM Bill Criminalizing Rape-Related Abortions Amended After 'Misinterpretation'
A New Mexico representative has amended a recent, heavily criticized bill which she claims was wrongly interpreted as calling for victims of rape or incest who undergo an abortion to be charged with a third degree felony.
House Bill 206, initially introduced by State Rep. Cathrynn N. Brown (R-Carlsbad), called for third degree felony charges in the case of abortion as a result of pregnancy by rape for those who tampered with evidence, which, according to the original bill, included "procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime."
Third degree felony charges in New Mexico include a sentence of up to three years in jail.
Brown, who is endorsed by Right to Life, a national pro-life organization, received massive backlash for her bill, with her Facebook page overflowing with angry messages.
Additionally, Brown reportedly had to remove her contact information from the New Mexico legislature's website.
Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairman Javier Gonzales called the bill "atrocious" and "wrong" in a Jan. 24 statement.
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"This bill is wrong, and should never see the light of day in any legislature in this country, let alone New Mexico," Gonzales added.
Additionally, Enrique C. Knell, a spokesman for the office of Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, told NBC News last week: "Governor Martinez dedicated her career as a prosecutor to being a strong voice for crime victims and would never support any bill that re-victimizes rape survivors."
Following the massive outcry, Brown sought to clarify the language in her bill, which she argues is to deter rapists, not punish the victims.
The bill's new language will reportedly exempt the woman having the abortion from any felony charges.
"House Bill 206 was never intended to punish or criminalize rape victims," Rep. Brown said in a statement released to several news agencies, including the New Mexico Telegram.
"Its intent is solely to deter rape and cases of incest. The rapist – not the victim – would be charged with tampering of evidence. I am submitting a substitute draft to make the intent of the legislation abundantly clear," Brown added of the bill, which had nine Republican co-sponsors.
The text of the revised bill, published one day after the initial bill's introduction, specifically targets "a person who commits criminal sexual penetration or incest and who procures an abortion of a fetus resulting from the crime with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime is guilty of tampering with evidence."
As USA Today's Michael Winter reports, some are still calling bluff on Brown's claim that the bill was misinterpreted, arguing that she is back-tracking after receiving such public criticism.
"She got caught," Democratic spokesman Scott Forrester told USA Today, noting the improbability that a bill's language would be overlooked by its nine Republican co-sponsors.
"She can't backtrack. [...] Her agenda is pretty clear," Forrester claimed.
The bill's introduction comes on the heels of the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion in the U.S.