Does New Mexico House Bill 206 Make Rape Victims Felons for Getting An Abortion? NO. Here’s why.

Abuzz over the interwebs (by journalists who evidently have failed English class) is the subject that a New Mexico lawmaker (who is a woman, by the way) has introduced a bill to the state House that makes rape victims who seek an abortion out to be felons. Many of them actually link to the PDF (here) of the actual bill, but so sorely lack reading comprehension, that their frenzy of outrage has apparently interfered with their ability to reason.

Here are a few headlines..

Huffington Post:
“New Mexico Bill Would Criminalize Abortions After Rape As ‘Tampering With Evidence'”
“Proposed New Mexico Law Would Send Rape Victims Who Abort Pregnancies To Prison For ‘Tampering With Evidence'”
Business Insider:
“A New Mexico Lawmaker Wants To Criminalize Post-Rape Abortions”

The actual text of HB-206 paints a completely different picture.

What seems to be causing some confusion is the TITLE of the bill, rather than the actual proposal of the bill:

The cropped section above is the title, not the proposal itself. The title here is describing what the bill is about IN GENERAL. If the bill were to actually be enacted, the title would have nothing to do with the law. The title could talk about saltwater taffy or Ferris wheels, and the bill’s approval would not in any way affect saltwater taffy or Ferris wheels.

If there were a bill about how everyone who has green hair should get candy, the title might read,

What’s in the body of the bill is the important part. That part states:

If you are somehow reading that the bill somehow equates abortion as tampering with evidence, then you fail high school freshman English. I hope these journalists reporting the bill wrongly are not voters, because they are woefully uneducated and possibly super-retarded.

The issue is “Doing A with Motive B” and specifically states that Doing A (having an abortion) with Motive B (with intent to destroy evidence) is the propose ADDITION to the already-existing list that describes other Motive B crimes.

1. Everyone with green hair should get candy.
2. Everyone should get candy.

Using the candy concept above, if the bill were to make the first statement, the part about green hair is the issue, not the “everyone” part.

1. Everyone who gets a post-rape/incest abortion with intent to tamper with evidence is a felon.
2. Everyone who gets a post-rape/incest abortion is a felon.

Similarly, the intent to tamper with evidence is the issue, not simply all post-rape/incest abortions alone.

Or, you can look at this another way.

If there were a law that stated: It is illegal to blow your nose or pick your nose and then rub boogers all over people, the criminal part is the rubbing of boogers all over people. Blowing or picking your nose WITHOUT rubbing it all over people is still perfectly legal to do.

HB 206 wishes to amend a law that already exists that describes the act of destroying stuff as criminal, **IF** the intention of the destruction is to prevent that stuff from being used as evidence in a criminal case. Destroying stuff outside of that situation is okay, but if you’re destroying stuff so it can’t be used as evidence, then you’re guilty of tampering. For instance, getting stuff dry cleaned is legal, but getting stuff dry cleaned if the stain on the garment or rug is blood splatter from a shooting and needs to be used in a criminal trial, then you would be destroying evidence, which would be illegal.

Getting an abortion after rape/incest would not be illegal, but **IF** one such post-rape/incest abortion is performed for the purposes of destroying evidence, then there’s a problem. You could still get one after being raped or after being subjected to incestuous relations, as long as it didn’t interfere with criminal evidence.

If you decided to see whether it was a misunderstanding before sharing one of these articles, I applaud you. You should be given lots of candy.

If you shared one of these articles that misunderstands simple English before you looked it up to see whether those claims were true, I’d suggest you delete the tweet, remove the Facebook post, or take down the article so you can save face from people who are not only going to think of you as having gotten your credentials from a Cracker Jack box, but they’ll have proof!

15 thoughts on “Does New Mexico House Bill 206 Make Rape Victims Felons for Getting An Abortion? NO. Here’s why.

  1. Talked to Rep Browns office, she is pulling the bill to reword it. Even she thinks it reads she wants raped women to go to jail for terminating the pregnancy. You Sir are an idiot

  2. Well, I agree and disagree.
    One way to interpret the sentence is how you are, which is how I originally interpreted it. I was a bit confused about why everyone was freaking out. It seemed to me that the rape victim would have to also be proven as having the intention of freeing the rapist. However, I thought about it for a bit, and there is another way to look at it. It’s so simple, it escaped me for a while.
    if A. the fetus is evidence of the crime and B. the intent is to destroy the fetus, then C. The intent is to destroy evidence of the crime.

    And now read the law again:
    B. 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 issue is still bound strictly by the *intent* to destroy evidence of a crime, not the destruction itself.

      1. You may not destroy A, if your intent is to conceal it from becoming court evidence.
      2. You may not destroy A.

      Interpretation 1 is the only interpretation of the bill I can see being introduced here. As long as there exists the phrase “with intent to conceal evidence of crime” and such tacked to the end, the prior remarks as to what constitutes tampering are completely irrelevant. The intent *must* be to conceal the evidence to protect guilty parties, according to that language. The definition of tampering could very well include “taking an evening stroll, painting things orange, licking postage stamps, or making a 3-point turn on a 2-way street” and if “with intent to destroy evidence” is still on there, then it is the intent that must be proven.

  3. Please look into Mrs. Brown. She is a pro-life Dominionist.

    Under her bill, if you are raped and report it as a crime, then would not securing an abortion be destroying evidence? I look at it, as a woman in New Mexico, like this: If you are a victim of rape/incest, and you report it, then to destroy the fetus would be destruction of evidence. So if you are a victim of rape/incest, and you report it, you are now subjected to this law and would therefore be forced to carry a pregnancy as evidence.

    I believe the reason she didn’t proofread her bill is that she did not author it. This is the work of the ALEC-like right-to-life group, AUL. This is what they do. NM has an A grade for women’s reproductive health through NARAL and PP. Yet it is surrounded by the C grade Colorado and four Fs: Texas, Oklahoma, Utah and Arizona. It is also a Blue State surrounded by all red, with the exception of a Purple CO. Wake up, people.

    The fact that Mrs. Brown changed her story three times since Thursday and that the bill is difficult to pull up on the NM legislative page (still in the old form) and that she removed her phone numbers from her legislative page and shut down her FB page is quite telling of her attempt now to hide out. There are also 9 other conservative women backing this HB 206. They are known as the Gang of 10.

    Women in NM are not stupid. We can parse the English, and Spanish, and the Native languages quite well, thank you.

    • According to the bill, as has been repeated already, you are not guilty of tampering with evidence unless you INTEND to prevent that evidence from being used as evidence — you have to be destroying the evidence **WITH** the intent of concealing it from evidence. Having an abortion DOES NOT destroy the evidence. Having an abortion SIMPLY terminates the pregnancy, but the fetal remains can be kept in the cases of court evidence, but fetal remains may also be destroyed as an attempt to CONCEAL evidence. The INTENT to conceal the evidence MUST be a factor in getting the abortion. The procurement of an abortion, alone, without intent to suppress the evidence, is insufficient reason to push for a tampering conviction.

  4. Representative Brown has changed her story three times since Thursday. Let’s look at the timeline:

    1. Wednesday 1/23/13: Bill as introduced. Note underlined section is NEW text.

    2. Friday 1/25/13: “House Bill 206 was never intended to punish or criminalize rape victims,” Rep. Brown told New Mexico Telegram. “Its intent is solely to deter rape and cases of incest. The rapist—not the victim—would be charged with tampering of evidence. I am submitting a substitute draft to make the intent of the legislation abundantly clear.”

    Read more:

    3. Monday 1/28/13: “Brown has since clarified that House Bill 206 isn’t intended to target victims of sexual assault, and has worked to revise the language of the legislation — but although she wants to ensure rape survivors won’t be prosecuted for getting an abortion, she hasn’t extended the same protections for the doctors who perform those abortions. As the Democratic Party of New Mexico pointed out in an official statement about HB 206, the revised bill still represents a dangerous step toward criminalizing abortion. “The bill still makes it a crime to ‘facilitate’ an abortion for a woman who wants one,” Scott Forrester, the director of the group, explained. “That means doctors, nurses, or anyone else who works at a health care clinic where this is one of the services provided would still be guilty of a felony.”

    Targeting abortion providers is simply an indirect method of limiting women’s reproductive access, and it has been a successful tactic for anti-choice lawmakers across the country. Abortion opponents often subject abortion clinics and providers to burdensome regulations that aren’t placed on other medical professionals — and doctors who break those rules are typically faced with harsh consequences, like losing their medical licenses.

    Brown isn’t the first GOP lawmaker to go as far as to suggest that doctors who perform abortions should be subject to criminal charges.”

    So, first it is ANYONE, then it is THE RAPIST, now it is THE DOCTOR.
    The new bill has not been posted yet on the NM Legislative page, probably because Brown’s AUL masters are experiencing a tizzy-fit.

    • There is no change of story taking place. Your three numbered points are consistent with each other, and there is no change between any of them. You are fabricating your claims from thin air and seem to omit portions of the bill that directly specify the particular aspects that utterly defy your claims. You appear to be callously refusing to acknowledge the INTENT aspect entirely, opting to conveniently ignore the fact that it is the MOTIVE aspect of the action which is illegality, not the act itself.

      If a bill were introduced that stated that it is illegal to chew bubble gum with the intent to blow bubbles, the act of chewing bubble gum alone would not be a crime. You, however, are completely ignoring the MOTIVE, which is the key to understanding it.

      • The responders who continue to argue this point clearly have ulterior motives. They don’t so much fear that the bill in question criminalizes abortion, but that it lays groundwork for limitations on abortion.

        What they realize is that one of the reasons adamant anti-abortion crusaders are loathe to give ground even to victims of rape and incest is that they realize people are routine liars. Visit any hospital and you will find desk clerks who know how to milk government and insurance money, and who lead ignorant and desperate patients through the lies necessary to claim those funds. Just so, if a government program were to authorize funds for abortion procedures specific only to cases of rape and incest, many of these clerks would lead the patient through the process of formally claiming rape/incest, and only if necessary, filing a criminal report of same. As a matter of routine.

        Same if it were merely a law enabling late-term abortions in cases of rape/incest, and this tactic were used to bypass the law.

        Notice how the crime for which evidence would be destroyed in above scenario(s) is not the rape or incest. If this bill leads to mandatory preservation of the aborted fetus, that would be a reasonable thing. The fetus might be found to be a genetic match to the patient’s long-time live-in boyfriend, rather than Uncle Fred or strange in an alley. But who should be most culpable for that crime? The woman who wanted an abortion (paid for by the government, or in violation of laws against late-term abortions outside special situations), or the doctors and/or hospital staff who lead her through the falsified paperwork?

        A law that would increase the criminal responsibility of those enacting such fraud (and more power to Representative Brown shifting the burden to those who would routinely benefit by such fraud) would make hospital staff less likely to collude this way.

        Of course, none of this specificity is in the bill, and those who would support scamming the system to garner government funding or evade any legal limitation are certainly not going to admit their purpose. But this is why such a clause is so frightful to them. Especially the lawyers, who understand best where this is going.

  5. I applaud the nobility of your effort, sir — though I can’t say I’m surprised by the comments you’ve received.

  6. From a legal standpoint, the problem is that the question of intent is one which would have to be decided in a trial if charges were brought against the victim. If a rape victim gets an abortion and doesn’t realize that she should save the fetus for evidence, (yuck, by the way) she could be charged under this statute. I can see this arising where the rapist’s attorney alleges that the only reason she did it was so that the rapist could not prove his innocence. The state would have to prove intent, but do we really want to put victims through something like that? It’s already bad enough to have to testify in the rape case and confront that violent pig again.

  7. In the study of “mens rea” in criminal law, there are two main types of intent: knowledge intent, and purpose intent. If it allows prosecution with only knowledge intent, then the mere knowledge that they are destroying evidence could make a mother and anyone else who helped procure the abortion guilty. However, related to mens rea is the distinction between general intent crimes and specific intent crimes. The bill is written like a specific-intent crime law. Add in statements of legislative intent, and prosecutorial discretion, and I doubt any mother would be convicted under that law for aborting her fetus after becoming pregnant due to rape.

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