December 13, 2017

DOJ refers criminal accusations by Pearce on fetal tissue donations to FBI

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Anti-abortion activists praised the U.S. Department of Justice for sending several criminal referrals to the FBI with allegations that the University of New Mexico Hospital and Southwest Women’s Options conducted illegal activities related to fetal tissue donations.

In a letter last week, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Stephen Boyd addressed concerns U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce raised in September. Pearce is New Mexico’s lone Republican member of the delegation.

“This is a serious matter, and the Department takes these referrals seriously,” Boyd wrote to the congressman. “The Department has brought each of these referrals to the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for review and any appropriate follow-up action.”

The issue goes back to a 2015 video that allegedly showed that Planned Parenthood profited from the sale of fetal tissue. Numerous independent investigations found no wrongdoing from Planned Parenthood. But the heavily edited videos did spur U.S. lawmakers to investigate other organizations.

In 2016 the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Rights asked New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas to conduct his own investigation into the congressional panel’s investigation which allegedly showed UNMH and Southwest Women’s Options broke state law when transfering fetal tissue donations. The panel consists of eight congressional Republicans, chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who are members of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Boyd’s letter to Pearce also acknowledged the DOJ and FBI policy on investigations, leaving much to speculation.

“Consistent with longstanding Department policy, we cannot confirm or deny, or discuss matters, which may or may not currently be under investigation, in order to protect the integrity of the Department’s law enforcement functions,” Boyd wrote.

In a written statement, Pearce praised DOJ and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for their action while also admonishing Balderas for his alleged inaction.

“These infant lives are precious, and it is completely disgraceful and negligent to sit back while the rights of unborn lives are disregarded,” Pearce said in a written statement.

The Democratic Party of New Mexico accused the Pearce of being a political opportunist.

“It’s clear Pearce is playing politics with the lives of women and their families by pushing a wedge issue that doesn’t have anything to do with the health of New Mexico families,” DPNM Chairman Richard Ellenberg said in a press release.

Pearce is the lone Republican candidate for governor in next year’s elections.

While it’s unclear exactly what will happen with the criminal referrals, Sessions  made his position on abortion clear during his time in the U.S. Senate. While a delegate for Alabama, Sessions voted against increasing stem cell research and voted in favor of several bills that would have defined fetuses as children.