New Mexico Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R) has introduced House Bill 206, a bill that would make it a crime a rape victim to get an abortion as destruction of evidence of a crime. Brown is a lawyer and a member of the judiciary committee. She is also an ardent pro-life legislator who has made eliminating abortion (and “debunking” global warming) a mission. and, after a national outcry, says that the bill was poorly drafted will be changed to address the public concerns.
The bill below 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.” As a third-degree felony, a rape victim could be subject to three years in jail. Fortunately, it also happens to be facially unconstitutional.
After her introduction of the bill making a fetus “evidence” of a rape, Brown found herself the subject of national outcry. She eventually issued a statements claiming that the bill was poorly drafted and that her intent was not to criminally charge rape victims. That is a bit hard to understand given the shortness and clarity of the bill. It is hard to miss that “procuring or facilitating an abortion” would include rape victims, particularly for a lawyer. It is also hard to see how anyone with a JD would not see this bill as blatantly unconstitutional but Brown got various colleagues to co-sponsor the bill.
Brown now blames “a drafting error” and says that she will amend the law “to make the intent of the legislation abundantly clear.” Yet, she says that criminalizing such abortions is “solely to deter rape and cases of incest. The rapist — not the victim — would be charged with tampering of evidence.” Many pro-life advocates have long objected to exceptions for rape and incest in allowing abortions.
It is not clear why this bill is needed since the individual is subject to the higher penalty of rape and such rape would still have to be proven to establish an effort to compel or coerce a rape victims into having an abortion. There are an array of other laws that can also be used in such a circumstances based on the threats or coercion against a victim. That makes the intent of the law even more suspect.
In the end, Brown appears content to say that she is merely a legal illiterate rather than a legal extremist. A curious defense for a lawyer and a judiciary committee member.
Here is the statute: HB0206