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New Mexico Bill Could Criminalize Abortion After Sexual Assault as 'Tampering With Evidence'

New Mexico Bill Could Criminalize Abortion After Sexual Assault as 'Tampering With Evidence'

January 25, 2013 — A New Mexico bill (HB 206) introduced on Wednesday could result in prosecutions of women for "tampering with evidence" if they obtain an abortion for a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, USA Today reports (Winter, USA Today, 1/24).

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R), could result in charging sexual assault victims who obtain abortions with a felony, punishable by up to three years in prison. Physicians also would face criminal charges for performing the abortion (Wood, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/24).

The bill states, "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" (Reese, "She The People," Washington Post, 1/24).

The bill evoked outrage from women's rights activists. Pat Davis of ProgressNow New Mexico called the measure "blatantly unconstitutional." He said, "The bill turns victims of rape and incest into felons and forces them to become incubators of evidence for the state" (Bassett, Huffington Post, 1/24).

In a statement Thursday, Brown attempted to explain her original proposal and said she would amend the bill to make it clearer. "House Bill 206 was never intended to punish or criminalize rape victims," she said, adding, "Its intent is solely to deter rape and cases of incest. The rapist -- not the victim -- would be charged with tampering of evidence." She said, "New Mexico needs to strengthen its laws to deter sex offenders" (USA Today, 1/24).