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N.M. bill criminalizes rape victims, critics say

| Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 9:30 p.m.

SANTA FE — Women's rights groups and Democrats condemned a New Mexico Republican's proposal on Thursday that they say could lead to felony charges against rape victims seeking an abortion, but the legislator maintained her measure was being misrepresented.

Rep. Cathrynn Brown of Carlsbad said she'll revise the legislation and had intended to make it a crime for a rapist in cases of incest to force a pregnant victim to have an abortion or to arrange for the abortion. She said her proposal “was never intended to punish or criminalize rape victims.”

The bill says the crime of evidence tampering “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.”

New Mexico Democratic Party Chairman Javier Gonzales called it an “atrocious piece of legislation.”

“This bill is wrong and should never see the light of day in any legislature in this country, let alone New Mexico,” said Gonzales. “The war on women in America has to stop. No woman should ever be forced to carry a child for ‘evidence,' plain and simple.”

The legislation was guaranteed to face strong opposition in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, which historically has rejected proposals to restrict abortion rights.

“This bill, which is nothing but anther extremist attempt to limit abortion, would require counselors, medical professionals, law enforcement and prosecutors to re-traumatize a rape survivor by limiting the options available to her,” said Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

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