New Mexico Bill Would Criminalize Abortions after Rape as ‘Tampering with Evidence’

A new bill was introduced in New Mexico requiring victims of rape to save pregnancies as an evidence for a sexual assault.

State Rep. Cathrynn Brown from New Mexico introduced a bill requiring victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to term in order to use the fetus as evidence for a sexual assault trial. Photo: Phillip Fischer/Flickr

A Republican lawmaker in New Mexico introduced legislation on Wednesday January 23, 2013 known as House Bill 206, according to which termination of pregnancy as a result of rape would constitute destruction of evidence.

“Tampering with evidence shall include 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,” the bill reads.

Such an act would become a third-degree felony which is punished by sending to prison for as high as three years.

As Examiner writes, “depending on the political IQ of the court system, the scenario could be set up where the victim gets more time than the rapist for quote, unquote destroying or “tampering with evidence!”’

Pat Davis of ProgressNow New Mexico, a progressive nonprofit opposing the bill, called it “blatantly unconstitutional” on Thursday, The Huffington Post reports.

“The bill turns victims of rape and incest into felons and forces them to become incubators of evidence for the state,” he said. “According to Republican philosophy, victims who are ‘legitimately raped’ will now have to carry the fetus to term in order to prove their case.“

Cathrynn Brown has come under attack for the proposed bill. A spokeswoman from NARAL, which stands for abortion rights, promised that the group would keep an eye on the introduced bill.

“Any elected official who wants to put criminal liability on survivors of rape or incest is cold-blooded,” said Donna Crane, policy director for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The New Mexico Democratic Party suggested that the legislation is another attack in the “war on women.”

“This is a sad day for women, and really a sad day for all New Mexicans,” Javier Gonzales, chairman of the New Mexico Democratic Party,  said on Thursday.

“Instead of focusing on the No. 1 priority of bringing jobs to New Mexico, Republican lawmakers continue their war on women by introducing this atrocious piece of legislation,” he added.

“It’s like Republicans were wearing blinders when the results came in last November, because Republicans lost numerous seats on this very issue, but they apparently did not get the message.”

Today saw a statement from Brown’s office, explaining that any characterization of the bill as targeting survivors was “a misinterpretation of the intent of the legislation.”

The Current-Argus of Carlsbad reported that Brown blames “a drafting error” for this mistake. The GOP plans to submit a new bill “to make the intent of the legislation abundantly clear.”

“House Bill 206 was never intended to punish or criminalize rape victims,”   Brown said in a statement to the media. “Its intent is solely to deter rape and cases of incest. The rapist — not the victim — would be charged with tampering of evidence.”

“New Mexico needs to strengthen its laws to deter sex offenders,” she said. “By adding this law in New Mexico, we can help to protect women across our state.”

Scott Forrester, spokesman for the Democratic Party of New Mexico, said the party “would have to look at any new legislation introduced.”

“But this is what she introduced,” Forrester said of House bill  206. “This is what New Mexicans are seeing, and they’re outraged by what Rep. Brown has introduced.”

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