Today at 11:30 am, approximately 60 people gathered outside the Roundhouse--both to advocate for women's freedom of choice in reproductive health, but also to protest several bills filed in the state Senate to curtail abortion rights.

---

Here's what's at stake:

In this week's paper, Santa Fe NOW (National Organization for Women) chapter treasurer Janet Gotkin tells SFR there's been a nationwide push toward curtailing abortion rights.

One of the measures that has gained the most steam is parental notification, or the requirement that parents of girls under 18 must be notified before their daughter can get an abortion.

The research on whether such measures actually decrease abortions is mixed.

In March 2006, a pair of competing studies--one by Baruch College in New York and another by the New York Times--offered opposite views. The Baruch College study found that while parental notification did reduce the number of abortions in Texas, it also saw a 34 percent increase in the number of girls seeking late-term abortions.

The NYT study, on the other hand, found a "scant decrease" in the total abortion rates in several states with parental notification laws--not to mention no decrease in the number of teens getting pregnant.

In New Mexico, Sen. William Sharer, R-San Juan, has led this year's charge against abortion.

In addition to a bill requiring parental notification, Sharer has also introduced a bill prohibiting "late-term abortion"--which the proposed bill defines as any abortion after a doctor determines the fetus to be viable, or "able to survive outside the womb indefinitely, by natural or artificial life-support systems," another bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, and a fourth that makes it a misdemeanor for abortion clinic staff to "intentionally and repeatedly" contact anyone against his/her will.

(Sharer has also proposed a constitutional amendment to define marriage only as "the union of one man and one woman.")

Updated 1:30 pm: The rally's speakers ranged from state legislators--Bernalillo County Democratic Sens. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, Dede Feldman and Tim Eichenberg (below)--to pro-choice activists, Santa Fe Mayor David Coss and Frank Susman, a lawyer and president of the northern chapter of the ACLU of New Mexico.

Ortiz y Pino (below) kicked off the rally, grouping himself with other legislators--"I think we are in the majority still," he quipped--who "are committed to the notion that...state government should not jump in between a woman [and her] decisions about her life and health."

Feldman echoed the sentiment.

"One of the most basic human rights I have, as a woman, is to say what goes on in my body," Feldman told the crowd. "And abortion is part of that."

Coss won hearty applause for his short speech.

"We shouldn't have to be re-fighting this battle every year," Coss said. "I trust the women. You have to trust the women."

But Susman (below), who has argued abortion cases in front of the US Supreme Court, won the day with his speech at the rally.

"Every pregnant woman," Susman said, "has the innate intelligence, moral capacity...[and] singular qualifications to make an informed, intelligent decision for herself."

As for lawmakers--the majority of whom are men, Susman noted, and will never experience pregnancy--there was one message: "When it comes to reproductive health and choices, BUTT OUT!"