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Campaigns’ abortion messages get ugly

The election season is barely started, and the misleading claims about abortion have already begun. It’s going to get worse.

I’m going to talk about early mailers from local candidates for state representative — Democrat Rudy Martinez and Republican Luis Terrazas. No need to get into the toxic messages in other races.

We didn’t really ask for this. Almost none of the votes our state legislators make will be about abortion. Only a small percentage of voters face the abortion question directly — but for those it does affect, it’s a life changer. Advocates won’t let us ignore it.

I just received a mailer for Terrazas from the state Republican Party with a picture of a just-emerged baby, and the message: “Rudy Martinez would have let this healthy baby be aborted minutes ago.”

Does Martinez really want to rip babies from their mothers’ womb minutes before birth?

A mailer for Martinez says: “Who are you voting for? Luis Terrazas? Or every woman in New Mexico?”

But isn’t outgoing state Rep. Rebecca Dow a woman in New Mexico?

Another mailer says, “Luis Terrazas thinks abortion should be a felony.” And it adds that he thinks “women should be sent to prison.” Does Terrazas really want to imprison women who’ve had abortions?

There’s a lot of exaggeration and avoidance on both sides.

First, there are no minutes-before-birth abortions. They aren’t illegal in New Mexico, but they would certainly be unethical.

If a woman in the throes of labor begged to abort minutes before giving birth, her doctor or midwife would just tell her to breathe hard and push. If there really were cases like this, anti-abortion zealots would find them, and let us know the specifics.

There is a debate about late-term abortions, and whether there are too many of them for the wrong reasons. But it’s a technical medical debate about the few abortions near the midpoint of pregnancy. Neither side supports minutes-before abortions.

In his campaign newsletter, Terrazas said: “Politicians like my opponent, Rudy Martinez, have pushed for allowing abortion all the way up to the moment a baby is born. Rudy voted for HB 51, which does just that.”

But HB 51 didn’t do that. It simply repealed a 1969 law making all abortions felonies. Martinez voted unsuccessfully for HB 51 in 2019. Terrazas voted unsuccessfully against it (renamed SB 10) in 2021.

That’s what allows Martinez to claim that Terrazas thinks abortion should be a felony. The old law made abortion a felony, with no exceptions for rape and incest or to save the life of the mother, and Terrazas voted to keep it. It also allows Terrazas to claim that Martinez voted to allow abortions up until birth, because Martinez didn’t propose an alternative. The vote to repeal the 1969 law left New Mexico in the unusual (but not unique) position of having no law on abortion. No regulations. No time limits. No exceptions. No law at all.

Neither Martinez nor Terrazas has proposed a new abortion bill to set exceptions or limits. I’m guessing that’s because the details of regulating abortion are a hornet’s nest that neither wants to lead into. Does that mean Terrazas wants to force rape and incest victims to bear the children of their abusers? He hasn’t said so. Does he want mothers in danger to die rather than have abortions? He hasn’t said so. Does that mean that Martinez thinks abortion should be a form of birth control freely available up until birth? He hasn’t said so. Does Martinez welcome the economic growth from hosting abortion refugees from Texas and other restrictive states? He hasn’t said so.

Both candidates are saying what they’re opposed to, not what they’re for. Terrazas is Pro-Life, not Pro-Forced-Birth. Martinez is Pro-Choice, not Pro-Abortion.

Abortion is a subject that makes most of us queasy when we think about the medical procedures or the real-world alternatives. We envy those who think it’s simple. Whether the message is “don’t kill babies” or “let pregnant women (even teenagers) make their own moral choices,” we think it’s more complicated.

We wrestle with what the government’s role should be — if any. We can at least imagine a compromise regulation bill. But most of all, we’d rather talk about something else.

What about education, taxes, crime, climate change, economic growth, inflation and dozens of other issues? Well, it looks like this may be the abortion election, and all those other issues are headed for the back burner.

Disclaimer:
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Southwest Word Fiesta™ or its steering committee.

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Bruce McKinney

Bruce McKinney is a Silver City business owner, close observer of local government and occasional troublemaker. In his column, which appears every other Wednesday, he tries to address big questions from a local perspective. Send comments and ideas to bruce@greensilverlinings.com.
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