New Mexico senator introduces bill forcing religious hospitals to perform abortions

Anti-abortion demonstrators carry a statue of the Virgin Mary as they participate in the annual March for Life in Washington, January 22, 2014. | Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Lawmakers in New Mexico have introduced a bill which would essentially force Christian healthcare workers to refer for abortions and religiously-affiliated hospitals to perform the procedure.

State senators Gerald Ortiz y Pino and Mimi Stewart introduced Senate Bill 282, which seeks to repeal religious exemptions for participating in abortions.

The measure states: "A hospital shall not refuse to provide a reproductive health service if withholding the reproductive health service would result in or prolong a serious risk to the patient's life or health; and, where a failure to provide the reproductive health service would violate the medical standard of care owed the patient."

According to Life Site News, New Mexico law provides legal exemptions for individuals and hospitals that have moral religious objections to abortion. Although SB 282 does not directly refer to the exemptions, those religious freedoms will be eliminated under the measure.

Ortiz y Pino had voted in 2015, 2016 and 2017 to keep abortion legal up to the day of birth, saying, he cannot support any abortion restrictions as a "faithful Catholic."

New Mexico Alliance for Life (NMAFL) executive director Elisa Martinez argued that legislation's definitions of "standard of care" and "health" care are so broad that it loses any meaningful limitations.

Martinez said that the bill will force half or more of the health care professionals in New Mexico to leave their practice or lose their license for violating the law.

"It was bad enough when Senator Ortiz y Pino used his Catholic faith to justify abortion until the day of birth," said Martinez. "Now he wants to force healthcare providers, including those of his own Catholic faith, to violate their consciences by participating in abortion," she continued.

State Senator Bill Sharer also expressed his opposition to the legislation, saying it would require Catholic healthcare providers to "commit mortal sins." He asserted that the reason abortion remains legal in the state is because it is supported by Catholic Democrat legislators and because Catholic leaders are silent.

Both Martinez and Sharer contended that SB 282 violates the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012, which contains an amendment that protects healthcare providers from being forced to participate in abortions.

Martinez also accused Ortiz y Pino of misleading the legislature as his bill does not mention the statute it seeks to eliminate. She argued that even pro-life legislators could vote in favor of the bill without knowing that they are repealing "the basic constitutional right to religious liberty."