A lawsuit was filed this morning on behalf of New Mexico resident Jessica Duran against late-term abortion clinic Southwestern Women’s Options (SWO), supposedly one of only four centers in the country that performs late-term abortions. Duran visited the Albuquerque-based clinic in 2012 for an abortion, where, she says, her rights were violated. In part, she alleges that SWO employees did not provide her with informed consent and did not disclose their connection to the university research center to which her aborted child’s remains were later given.
“I was never informed of the University of New Mexico’s collaboration with SWO for research, which appears to have influenced SWO employees to encourage me to abort my daughter,” she said. Duran said doctors and staff never informed her of any alternative options to abortion or to the donation of her child’s body.
In fact, Duran says she was never even told that her child’s body would be used for fetal research at all; she only later discovered her child had been sent to the University of New Mexico (UNM) for just that purpose. The lawsuit alleges that Duran was given a consent form to sign in order to donate her child’s body parts to the clinic, but that form did not indicate a glaring conflict of interest: that the clinic’s leading abortion doctors were also faculty members at UNM involved in its work with fetal tissue. Furthermore, she was never given the opportunity to consent to her child’s remains being sent to UNM itself.
Fetal-tissue donation and trafficking have been the subject of an ongoing congressional inquiry over the past year, led by the bipartisan House Select Panel on Infant Lives, which this summer referred both UNM and SWO to the attorney general of New Mexico for criminal investigation. In the course of this investigation, both the university and SWO produced documents indicating that SWO was UMM’s sole fetal-tissue supplier, as well as that the clinic did not supply fetal tissue to any other entities. This fact was also not disclosed to Duran at the time of her abortion. In addition, evidence has emerged showing that doctors, employees, and staff members at SWO were active participants in ongoing studies taking place at UNM.
If Duran’s allegations are true, this is the latest episode in a long chronicle, revealing that abortion clinics are more than willing to disregard the law and obfuscate the details of tissue donation in order to take advantage of vulnerable women. Whether or not these clinics receive explicit monetary profit is not yet fully clear, but it is certain, especially in this case, that the doctors in question had a vested interest in Duran deciding to abort her child.