Bill preview: How Democrats say they will strengthen abortion rights in New Mexico.

The roundhouse in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — Democratic lawmakers on Friday committed to enact legislation banning counties from interfering with abortion rights and allowing individuals to sue if their reproductive health information is shared.

The bill aims to strengthen abortion rights in a state where abortion is already legal but some cities and counties are targeting it with local anti-abortion ordinances.

The sponsors of the bill said they also want to protect the privacy of people who may travel to New Mexico because of abortion restrictions in their home states.

The legislative package is expected to be split into two bills – one starting in the House of Representatives, the other in the Senate.

“We want to make sure people aren’t afraid to get the medical care they need,” Santa Fe Democratic Rep. Linda Serrato said in an online news conference on Friday.

She plans to sponsor a bill that would prohibit cities, counties or other public entities from restricting reproductive health care rights. It would also prohibit sex-based discrimination of a person’s right to health care.

The proposal follows the passage of anti-abortion ordinances in Roosevelt County and other communities near the Texas line.

Roosevelt County commissioners, for example, voted in favor of an ordinance aimed at banning the use of the mail or other interstate carriers to deliver abortion drugs. It would be enforced by allowing individuals to file civil suits to seek damages of at least $100,000.

Commissioner Rodney Savage, a Republican from Portales, said the legislature should allow communities to develop their own abortion regulations.

“There is overwhelming support for pro-life in our part of the country,” he told the Journal.

Ellie Rushforth, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said local anti-abortion ordinances are already unconstitutional. But state legislation would address misinformation, she said, and clarify that access to abortion or other health care cannot be restricted by local politicians.

A second proposal, to be sponsored by Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, would implement an executive order issued last year by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that would bar state agencies from sharing patients’ or providers’ reproductive health information .

Proponents said it is designed to protect people from extra-state investigations or harassment.

The measure would also allow patients or providers to file lawsuits against public bodies, private companies or non-profit groups that share personal medical information related to reproductive healthcare.

“While (federal law) provides some protection for this information, we know that is not enough,” Rushforth said, “particularly given the insidious attacks on reproductive freedom.”

The two bills are expected to be introduced in the 60-day legislative session that begins on Tuesday.

The package comes after abortion rights played a central role in the Roundhouse’s 2022 campaigns.

Democrats — who retained a healthy majority in the State House and control of the executive branch — vowed to protect reproductive health care rights after the US Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade and escalated the debate to the state governments.

Abortion has remained legal in New Mexico because Lujan Grisham signed into law two years ago repealing a 1969 law that made it a crime in most cases.

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