Legislation protecting reproductive, gender-affirming health care passes House committee

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SANTA FE, N.M. — The House Health and Human Services Committee approved the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care Freedom Act along party lines Friday morning.

The bill does not directly protect access to abortion and other controversial procedures – rather, it’s meant to block local governments and other public bodies from standing in the way.

Santa Fe Rep. Linda Serrato is leading the charge on House Bill 7, a proposal she says will ensure access to health care services already protected by New Mexico law.

“It’s so important to me, and to so many of my colleagues, that they feel that freedom to have that health care access without being scared of being punished, or jailed, or something else,” Serrato said.

The bill specifically outlines restrictions for public bodies, including local governments, commissions, boards, and any other entity that receives public funding. It would block them from discriminating against people who choose to access reproductive health care services, like abortion and fertility treatments, but also gender-affirming services, like hormone treatments and certain surgeries.

HB 7 would also prevent new legislation or resolutions from interfering with those services.

“All this does is ensure there’s not a checkerboard of reproductive health care laws of gender-affirming care laws on the books,” Serrato said.

Three Republicans on the committee were critical of the bill’s language, arguing it could open the door for lawsuits, especially in rural communities.

“Let’s say, in a very rural area, there’s a doctor who does not believe in abortion, but somebody came to them and said, I needed an abortion. If there wasn’t a facility, they could not exempt out of that,” said East Mountains Rep. Stefani Lord. “It’s a huge concern.”

Serrato said that is not what the bill is proposing.

“It does not require anyone to have new practice or to do new practices that they haven’t done before,” Serrato said. “It just ensures that you are not discriminated against.”

The bill would prevent cities and counties from enacting anti-abortion resolutions. Some public commenters believe that is an overstep, but Serrato said it’s an effort to make sure all New Mexicans have access to the same services regardless of location.

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to take a closer look at those legal concerns.

Track HB 7 during the legislative session.