She says badly written bill put her there
State Rep. Cathrynn Brown, sponsor of an anti-abortion bill that she called poorly written, said her intent was not to charge rape victims with a felony if they terminated their pregnancy.
Brown, R-Carlsbad, said her bill was badly drafted and that she did not catch the language problems when reviewing it.
"I missed this one," she said Thursday.
Her proposal, House Bill 206, says: "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."
Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, said Brown's intent was to focus on a perpetrator, such as a stepfather who raped a teen, impregnated her and then demanded that she get an abortion.
Brown did not want to put any onus on a rape victim, Gentry said.
An attorney, Brown said her practice is to edit a bill carefully before releasing it. This time, a drafting error occurred and she was not diligent enough so it got through, she said.
"She's horrified," Gentry said.
Brown, beginning her second term in the House of Representatives, said she had never been through a storm like this one.
Her bill created a flurry of criticism, in the Capitol and on the Internet. Groups in New Mexico and elsewhere denounced her bill as a second assault on rape victims.
Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico, was among those who denounced Brown's bill.
“This bill criminalizes rape survivors who seek to have an abortion. It would force a rape survivor to choose between cooperating in the prosecution of her abuser and terminating an unwanted pregnancy that was forced upon her. Most New Mexicans agree that we should not punish survivors of sexual assault for the crime that was perpetrated upon them. Rape survivors need care and support, not a felony charge.”
Laura Schauer Ives, legal director of the ACLU of New Mexico, said Brown's proposal had flaws beyond bad writing.
“Forcing someone else to destroy evidence of sexual assault is already a crime under the current tampering with evidence statute. This bill can only serve to criminalize rape survivors who seek abortions,” she said.
The 38 Democrats in the state House of Representatives said they collectively objected to Brown's bill.
In a statement by their leadership, the Democrats said: "HB 206 does not respect the tough choices a woman of sexual assault must face. Sexual assault is traumatic enough without the fear of criminal punishment. Democrats hope that this bill can serve to educate the public that a woman’s right to take control of her own healthcare decisions is the most important step in the process of healing. The threat of criminal prosecution removes control from victims of sexual assault."