Select Panel Issues Second Criminal Referral to N. Mexico AG Following Duran Lawsuit

The congressional panel is asking New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas to investigate one abortion center and the state university it partners with.

By Liberty McArtor Published on December 22, 2016

The House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives issued its second criminal referral to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas Wednesday regarding the violation of state and federal law by late-term abortion center Southwestern Women’s Options (SWO) and the University of New Mexico.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the Select Investigative Panel, sent the second referral following a lawsuit against SWO by former patient Jessica Duran earlier this month.

Duran’s lawsuit alleged that when she underwent an abortion at SWO in 2012, she was not informed of several important factors regarding the center’s close relationship with the University of New Mexico and their collaboration on fetal research. Since the lawsuit was filed, more women have reportedly come forward with similar complaints.

The initial referral was issued by the Select Investigative Panel in June 2016 after an investigation by the New Mexico Alliance for Life (NMAFL, the pro-life group backing Duran’s lawsuit) revealed evidence suggesting that SWO and the University of New Mexico have long been violating informed consent laws per state and federal regulations. SWO is the sole provider of aborted body parts to the University of New Mexico for medical research, and some staff abortionists at SWO are also volunteer faculty members at the taxpayer-funded university.

Blackburn Cites State and Federal Regulations in Second Criminal Referral

In her Wednesday letter to Balderas, Blackburn details the Health and Human Services regulations concerning fetal medical research. According to HHS’s 45 C.F.R. § 46.116, informed consent of fetal donation and research must be provided to women considering an abortion, including an explanation of the purpose of the research, a description of foreseeable risks and benefits, disclosure of alternative procedures and a statement that participation in the research is voluntary, among other things.

The New Mexico Maternal, Fetal and Infant Experimentation Act contains similar regulations.

According to Blackburn’s letter, the Select Investigative Panel received an appropriate consent form from SWO during its investigation, but there is evidence that it was not actually used at the center itself. Blackburn writes:

[One SWO doctor] admitted she had never gotten a consent from a patient at SWWO [Southwestern Women’s Options] to make a fetal tissue donation — and did not even recognize the consent form that SWWO and UNM produced to the Panel. She also admitted she was unaware of whether consent was required prior to the donation of fetal tissue.

Blackburn ends the referral by urging Balderas to investigate SWO and the University of New Mexico, and “take all appropriate action” if his findings are congruent with those of the Panel.

NMAFL Calls for Balderas to Act

In an interview with The Stream last week, NMAFL Executive Director Elisa Martinez said that Balderas’s office “has been dragging their feet on this issue.”

When Duran’s lawsuit was filed on December 5, Duran and NMAFL joined the Select Investigative Panel’s initial call for Balderas to investigate SWO and the University of New Mexico. Martinez says he has investigated other issues in the state in a “timely” manner, while disregarding this issue.

“New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas can no longer ignore these serious, multiple violations of law and women’s rights, cited by Congress,” Martinez said in a press release Wednesday after the Select Investigative Panel’s second referral was issued, “he must uphold his duty to hold both Southwestern Women’s Options and the University of New Mexico accountable to the law.”

“It is absolutely pathetic that the only person in New Mexico that is taking legal action to hold these people accountable is one of their victims,” Martinez added.

Not Just New Mexico — Panel Issues More Criminal Referrals

As reported Wednesday by USA Today, the Select Investigative Panel has issued a total of 15 criminal referrals throughout its yearlong investigation of abortion providers and fetal medical research.

The Panel was formed in 2015 after the pro-life Center for Medical Progress published a series of undercover videos where Planned Parenthood officials were seen negotiating the sale of baby body parts with medical research company StemExpress.

USA Today reported that a full report of the Panel’s findings is expected to be completed by the end of the year, but may not be made public at that time.

“Speaking as a woman, I am deeply troubled by what we have learned about the mistreatment of patients at a particularly difficult and vulnerable time in their lives,” Blackburn said. “They are being treated with a disregard for their best interests and their rights as patients.”

For its part, NMAFL has called former patients of SWO to come forward if they feel their informed consent rights were violated by the abortion provider.

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