Pro-Life Group: More Women Come Forward After Jessica Duran Sues Abortion Center
Following a lawsuit filed by Jessica Duran against Southwestern Women's Options, a pro-life group in New Mexico says even more women have come forward claiming their rights were violated at SWO.
More women have lodged complaints against Southwestern Women’s Options since a lawsuit against the abortion center was filed last week, Elisa Martinez of New Mexico Alliance for Life (NMAFL) told The Stream.
Jessica Duran, who had an abortion at Southwestern Women’s Option’s (SWO) in 2012, sued the New Mexico abortion center on Monday, December 5 for allegedly violating the state’s informed consent laws and engaging in deceptive trade practices.
NMAFL is the non-profit supporting Duran in her lawsuit, and has encouraged other women who received abortions at SWO to come forward if they felt their rights had also been violated.
Martinez told The Stream this week that an attorney is investigating the additional claims against SWO that were submitted after Duran’s lawsuit was filed.
According to the lawsuit filed last Monday, SWO provided Duran with a consent form before her abortion indicating that “tissue and parts” of her baby’s body could be used in medical research.
However, the center failed to inform Duran of important specifics, such as the nature and extent of how her baby would be used in research, the fact that SWO was the sole supplier of fetal tissue to the University of New Mexico (some SWO staff physicians are also volunteer faculty members at UNM), who she could contact with questions about the process, or the fact that the donation of her baby’s body to fetal research was voluntary.
“My right to choose was violated” by SWO, Duran said at a press conference at the University of New Mexico last Monday. “They take advantage of women like me in frantic situations by not giving us all the facts and information we are entitled to.”
An investigation by NMAFL and the Congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives revealed that two aborted babies within the approximate age range of Duran’s baby were provided by SWO to UNM in the same week of Duran’s abortion in 2012. Duran “reasonably” believes one of these bodies belonged to her aborted daughter, the lawsuit states, but never received the documentation she asked for to confirm.
New Mexico Attorney General Under Fire
In filing the lawsuit, Duran asked New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas to criminally investigate both UNM and SWO. Six months ago in June 2016, the Select Panel issued a criminal referral to Balderas following an investigation of the “symbiotic relationship” between SWO and UNM.
Balderas has not launched an investigation.
“Unfortunately, the Attorney General’s office has been dragging their feet on this issue,” Martinez told The Stream.
Balderas has launched investigations into other matters (such as rising EpiPen prices) in what Martinez called a “timely” manner, but has still not begun investigating SWO and UNM “despite a criminal referral delivered by Congress.”
“It’s a little bit disconcerting,” Martinez said. “He claims to be a defender of women, children and families, but where is he now? Where is he to defend these women and unborn children?”
SWO’s and UNM’s Response Since Case Launch
While SWO has not issued a formal response to the lawsuit, spokeswoman Heather Brewer said in a statement to the Albuquerque Journal last week that “Southwestern Women’s Options has been caring for New Mexico women and their families for more than 40 years. During that time, the clinic has provided quality care in accordance with state regulations.”
“We believe that has not been the case,” Martinez told The Stream, “and that they have been violating women’s rights by not getting them a lawful consent form.”
“UNM has categorically denied that there has been any violation,” Martinez continued.
The Select Panel’s investigation revealed that UNM and SWO may have violated a federal statute mandating that “valuable consideration” cannot be given in exchange for human fetal tissue.
In addition to the federal statute, the Select Panel said in June that UNM and SWO may have violated New Mexico’s Spradling Act, “which prohibits making anatomical gifts of the remains of any fetus that is the product of an induced abortion,” the panel’s June press release states.
Martinez says the SWO abortionists named in the lawsuit are in the process of being served. Next, attorneys will likely begin the discovery phase which includes compiling pertinent documents and information.
While some women have already responded with additional complaints, Martinez says NMAFL is still inviting others to speak up and request help.
“We want to encourage other women to come forward if they have had their abortion at SWO,” Martinez said, adding that women can fill out a form at abortioncomplaintnm.com and be put in touch with someone who can provide legal assistance.