Wow.. just when I thought it could get more depressing.
Well, I'm loathe to depress you more but... what would you say if I told you that Brown's bill is not the only anti-abortion bill before the New Mexico legislature right now?
Look up New Mexico House Bill 122, put forward by Nora Espinoza. Anyone wanna take bets on which party Nora Espinoza is with?
Oh, but I can't leave you too
depressed. Unfortunately, the best I can provide you with is some really dark humour, but if you're up for it, skip down to the horizontal line. It might
cheer you up a little, even if only in a bleak way.
When I talked to a lawyer about the law, they noted that the law is essentially useless except for plea bargains. Which is about what I expected.
Okay, sure, but other lawyers disagree. For example: Laura Schauer Ives - she's the legal director of the New Mexico ACLU (who, incidentally, said exactly what I did: that the existing evidence tampering law already covers what Brown said she wanted to cover).
There's no denying it's an absolutely stupidly written law. Brown herself is swearing blind that it wasn't her fault - she says she asked the legislature's crack legal team to draft the bill, and when they did she
told them to add something to let the rape victim off the hook (she claims they told her it wasn't necessary, but she wanted it anyway), but somehow that didn't get added before it was put submitted. (And somehow, she and nine other co-sponsors
failed to notice that. She also made some noise about how the Democrats leaked the draft to smear her, but that's complete bullshit because the text that's "smearing" her is the text she finally submitted
, as can be seen on the NM legislature record - not some unpolished draft that was sneakily leaked. There's no doubt the Democrats are having a field day rubbing her nose in it, but that's hardly underhanded; if you do something that stupid
you deserve to be made an ass of.) But the fact that it's a stupidly written law is a red herring. The problem was that it was even proposed at all
. There is no wording that can save this idea - any reasonable use it might have is already covered. You shouldn't write laws just for the hell of it, and you shouldn't write laws to cover stuff that's already well-covered by existing law. No amount of good intentions justifies that level of incompetence.
And in fact, the fact that the law is so completely useless helps highlight Brown's intentions. Let me explain with an example. Suppose you had a perfectly good law against punching people in the face. It covers everything ably, with the proper exemptions (so that, for example, the participants in a boxing match won't be guilty of a crime), and there's no reason whatsoever to modify it. Then along comes a lawmaker who adds an addendum to the law. The new addendum doesn't actually add anything new
to the existing law; everything it covers and exempts was covered and exempted before. All the new addendum does is add special wording for a specific case. That special wording and specific case? The case where a black person punches a white person in the face. Again, let me stress: the new addendum doesn't add
a law against black people punching white people in the face - that was covered before. It doesn't change anything, in the end. The general case of a person punching another person in the face was already ably covered. All the new addendum does is add wording that specifically covers a black
person punching a white
person in the face. That's all it does, and while it does no harm (because that special case was already covered), it was completely unnecessary. Wouldn't you agree that the intention of such an addendum is obviously racist, and nothing else? That there is no way that any sane, reasonable person would say it can't
be intended to be racist? What about if the lawmaker proposing the changes was the head of the KKK - what about then?
So now consider an addendum to a perfectly good evidence tampering law that adds a specific provision for abortions. Assume that it's actually a well-written addendum, and not the stupid one actually submitted, so that it adds absolutely nothing to the law that wasn't covered before, and it takes nothing away that was. All it does is add wording that specifically covers abortions. Isn't it painfully obvious that the intention of such an addendum is obviously
anti-abortion, and nothing else? Is it even necessary to mention that Brown is the head of an anti-abortion group?
It's so obviously an attempt to curtail women's rights, get around Roe v. Wade, and criminalize abortion that it baffles me that anyone could even try to argue the bill has a legitimate purpose. It doesn't matter that it was a bad law, that it wouldn't have worked as intended or that it would never have passed. The mere act deserves recognition and condemnation. It's the same as if someone tabled a bill in favour of racial segregation, using some sneaky premise to try and get around Brown v. BoE - it wouldn't matter that if the law was poorly written, if it wouldn't have worked as intended, or that it would never have passed... the mere act
of proposing such a bill deserves loud and vigorous condemnation. How much condemnation - when is enough enough? Well, I don't know... but I'd say it should at least go on as long as Brown refuses to apologize for it. (And no, blaming interns and the Democrats for your mistake is not an apology.)
The mere existence of the bill warrants any outrage it gets, regardless of how well or poorly written is and regardless of whether it would actually work or not. The fact that it's so incompetent is a bonus, and merely adds justification for outright mockery.
Incidentally, one of the lawyers I talked to about it pointed something else out about the bill (with the new, revised language) that is... actually kind of hilarious. It turns out that far from making it tougher for rapists to coerce abortions to try and get away with their crime... this bill would actually introduce a loophole to allow some rapists to get away with it! In other words, this bill does absolutely nothing to strengthen
the law (other than punishing innocent, legitimate abortion providers)... but it does add a loophole to weaken it!
And what is that loophole? Well, it's actually kind of funny, and it's the kind of thing you probably have to be a lawyer to spot. But, check this out:
First of all, here's the new text of the bill, from what I know (it's not available yet). Section A is the original text, section B is the insertion:
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 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. In no circumstance shall the mother of the fetus be charged under this subsection.
So, without section B and with section A alone, any time someone tries to destroy physical evidence to cover up a crime - for example forcing or tricking someone into an abortion to hide evidence of a rape - that's tampering with evidence.
What section B does is basically restate the rules of section A, except it makes it specific to abortion, and it makes the intent broader (intent to destroy evidence rather than intent to cover up a crime). So it should
make the law tougher, and make it cover more, right?
The last sentence of the new text is: "In no circumstance shall the mother of the fetus be charged under this subsection." This was added because the original text made the rape victim a criminal for getting an abortion. But it has another... kinda funny side-effect.
What's the catch? Well, consider this: what if the mother of the foetus is the rapist
Say what? Well, consider this.
Suppose I drugged or otherwise incapacitated some guy, and raped them. The guy is not sure
he was raped (because he was drugged), but, surprise! I got pregnant from the rape. Now when he finds out about the pregnancy, the guy will demand the foetus be DNA tested (with or without an abortion), and I'll be caught. So I quickly have an abortion before he can get the subpoena.
Cathrynn Brown shat all over New Mexico law, this would be a pretty open and shut case: I destroyed the physical evidence of a crime to prevent a conviction - my own - so I'd be guilty of tampering with evidence. Case closed, I'd be going to jail.
But under the new
law, as the mother of the foetus, "in no circumstance
" can I be charged with evidence tampering.
Even if that circumstance happens to be... that I was actually the rapist.
You see? Far from improving the law, Cathrynn Brown done nothing to make it harder for rapists to get away with coercing abortions to avoid conviction, and has actually made it possible for certain kinds of rapists to get away
with destruction of evidence that wouldn't have gotten away with it before her additions.