A Republican lawmaker, a woman, has introduced a bill in the New Mexico legislature that would make abortion illegal for victims of rape.
Rep. Cathrynn M. Brown, who represents the towns of Carlsbad and Loving, would require victims of a sex assault to carry the fetus to term or be prosecuted for "tampering with evidence" if they sought an abortion.
House Bill 206 would make the abortion a third-degree felony and impose a three-year prison sentence on conviction.
By late afternoon Thursday, Brown's office was backing off the bill. A spokesman for Brown said there had been an error in its drafting.
The spokesman said felony charges would only be brought against someone who coerced a rape victim to get an abortion. "Somehow the wrong language was introduced," he said, adding the lawmakers office had been innundated with calls all day. "We're concerned that it happened."
Backtracking did nothing to temper the outrage expressed by Philadelphia-area women's rights activists.
"This is a vile attempt to turn rape victims into felons and repeal reproductive freedom," said Jill McDevitt, a West Chester sexologist and contributor to Philly.com. "Brown claims she wants to protect evidence, yet DNA can be extracted from an aborted fetus, so requiring a woman to carry her rapist's child in her body for 9 months is not only cruel and illegal, but also lacks scientific merit."
Kristen Houser, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, said the bill, if passed, would only punish the victim.
"Besides, a pregnancy is not evidence of sexual assault, it's evidence of sex," Houser said. "The only exceptions are when a victim isn't able to give consent because of age or mental disability."
The bill, as it was originally introduced, remained on the New Mexico legislature's web site Thursday afternoon.
"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 bill states.
Even in a revised form the bill is unlikely to pass. New Mexico is an overwhelmingly Democratic state.