New Mexico Legislator’s Confusing Position on Calling an Abortion for Rape as “Tampering with Evidence”

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Cathrynn Brown (Source: State of New Mexico)

Rape just won’t go away as an issue for the Republican Party. Comments by Richard Mourdock, Todd Akin and others can be dismissed as ignorance or even slips of the tongue. When it comes to introducing legislation, that is an entirely new level of ridiculity.

In New Mexico, House Bill 206, introduced by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, proposes to bring tampering with evidence into the abortion and rape debate. The problem is that the New Mexico Legislature’s website says one thing and Brown says another. Here is the language from HB206.

A. Tampering with evidence consists of destroying, changing, hiding, placing or fabricating any physical evidence with intent to prevent the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of any person or to throw suspicion of the commission of a crime upon another.

B. Tampering with evidence shall include procuring 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.

Source: New Mexico Legislature

That is the language from the New Mexico Legislature’s website. It is not an Onion article or a satirical jab at the GOP and its bumbling through rape and abortion.

This language raises the possibility that a rape victim and those who help her through an abortion can be charged with destroying evidence of a crime. The intent is supposed to involve preventing someone’s arrest, but there is plenty of language her for an overzealous district attorney to prosecute a raped woman seeking an abortion. According to this language, a woman who is raped could not have an abortion but a woman who accidentally became pregnant could. Unbelievable.

Then this came along.

At Brown’s website, she has another take on HB 206:

“This is the bill that I will introduce that protects women and girls from incest and other sex crimes: It makes it clear that the mother of the fetus would never be charged.”

Source: cathrynnbrown.com

There’s a problem with that. The New Mexico Legislature’s website doesn’t say anything about the mother. Going to the link that Brown supplies, which is part of her website, there is different language for the bill.

B. Tampering with evidence shall include a person committing criminal sexual penetration or incest procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of the person’s act of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime. In no circumstance shall the mother of the fetus be charged under this subsection.

Section B has been completely changed. Before it included anyone who aids in an abortion, now it includes only the perpetuator. The rest of the language in the bill is essentially the same.

Perhaps Brown put this bill together but wrote it so poorly that the intent described on her website was never fully expressed in the original language. If that is the case, it far worse than a gaffe or momentary blunder. It takes a lot of thought to put together a bill. To write it this poorly is nearly unthinkable.

Of course, Brown could have intended what is in its original language with the state, but she changed it because of the growing uproar over her bill.

Either way, Brown’s bill is appalling.

UPDATE: Brown says that she will clarify the language on the bill, presumably with the language from her website. Of course, she blames her critics for misrepresenting it.

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