Senate Democrats delay HHS nominee over women’s health funding

Last week, 65 administration nominees — including four to Health and Human Services — sailed through the Senate confirmation process by unanimous vote without any debate. One candidate left out was Dr. Brett Giroir, a Texas physician, who is the president’s choice for assistant secretary of health. Now, shedding light on their reservations, Senate Democrats are saying that Giroir’s testimony before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee left them skeptical that he would support women’s health programs, which they say are under threat. The Democrats are insisting on a roll call vote on the Senate floor — after the Senate reconvenes Sept. 5. The position for which Giroir is nominated includes oversight of the Office of Population Affairs, which administers Title X grants, and the Office of Adolescent Health, which oversees the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.

Farmington Planned Parenthood health center to stay open

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains says they received enough donations to keep its Farmington health center open. Five months ago, the organization announced the Farmington location would be one of three in the state to close by this fall. “We cannot begin to express our gratitude to the people of Farmington and their commitment to reproductive health care access in New Mexico,” Vicki Cowart, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains said in a statement. “We know how important access to reproductive care is for our rural communities, and today we celebrate being able to keep this health center open, thus ensuring access to care for women, men, and young people in Farmington and the surrounding areas.”

The health center does not perform surgical abortions. In May, the organization announced it needed to close three health centers in New Mexico, including locations in Farmington, Albuquerque  and Rio Rancho.

Three NM Planned Parenthood clinics to close this year

Three Planned Parenthood clinics in New Mexico—one in Albuquerque, one in Rio Rancho and one in Farmington—will close by this fall. Whitney Phillips, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which oversees clinics for the women’s health provider in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada, attributed the closures to “reduced patient volume” and challenges in the healthcare industry. “There’s no secret that the reproductive health landscape right now is tough,” she said, referring to the “defund Planned Parenthood” campaigns from opponents of abortion. None of the three clinics slated to close perform surgical abortions. She also ascribed some of the troubles to the federal Affordable Care Act, which “impacted the way we operated, the way we bill things.” Still, she said Planned Parenthood still supports ACA “because the more people with insurance, the better.”

The coming closures will drop the number of New Mexico Planned Parenthood clinics from six to three by this September.

House committee stalls another round of abortion bills

A panel of state lawmakers spent five hours Sunday hearing and debating two bills that would have restricted abortion access in New Mexico before tabling them on party lines. At one point, state Rep. Bob Wooley, R-Roswell, bemoaned the predictability of the situation. “I was going to ask some questions, but it’s futile,” he said to the sponsors of a bill to ban abortions after 20 or more weeks of pregnancy. “We all know how this committee is going to vote. This bill is going to die on a 3-2 vote.”

Some members of the public echoed this.

Effort to make college research secret stalls over fears it goes too far

Angelo Artuso warns that a move by lawmakers to shield some university research from the public eye could lead to harrowing consequences. At a Wednesday morning House committee hearing, Artuso invoked some of history’s darkest state-sanctioned university research projects. For decades, researchers at Tuskegee University studied the effects of syphilis by pretending to offer infected Black men free health care. And several colleges and universities from the early 1950s until 1973 were involved in Project MKUltra, a CIA program that used drugs like LSD unknowingly on human subjects to experiment with mind control. Programs like those, involving government-funded atrocities at institutions of higher learning,  Artuso maintained, would remain hidden at New Mexico public higher education institutions under a bill sponsored by state Reps.

Congressional panel studies ‘born alive’ problem that doctors call ‘medically inaccurate’

A year-long congressional investigation that opponents dismissed as “an end-to-end attack on fetal tissue donation and women’s health care” criticized two Albuquerque abortion providers. Both the University of New Mexico and Southwestern Women’s Options, according to the congressional Select Panel on Infant Rights’ Final Report released earlier this month, lack protocols to “ensure the survival of infants who show signs of life following extraction from the uterus.”

Anti-abortion activists use the term “born alive” abortion to describe the scenario, which involves an infant that is alive after a botched medical abortion. But there’s one big problem with this conclusion in the estimated $1.5 million investigation: ”born alive” abortions don’t actually occur, according to medical professionals. In a written statement to NM Political Report, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) dismissed the term “born alive” as “medically inaccurate.”

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Congressional Dems decry ‘McCarthy-era tactics’ in abortion investigation

A controversial congressional panel investigating abortion practices in New Mexico and the across the country is under scrutiny for its tactics and mission from some of its own members. In a report released this week titled “Setting the Record Straight: The Unjustifiable Attack on Women’s Health Care and Life-Saving Research,” Democratic members of the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives skewered the majority in the committee for using “McCarthy-era tactics” to conduct “an end-to-end attack on fetal tissue donation and women’s health care.”

The Select Panel, chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, earlier this year sought subpoenas from Southwestern Women’s Options and the University of New Mexico and recommended the state Attorney General open a criminal investigation into the health clinic’s fetal tissue donation policy to the university. Related: Lawsuit alleges clinic donated fetal tissue without woman’s consent

Congressional Republicans formed the Select Panel after controversial, heavily edited videos of Planned Parenthood by anti-abortion activists went viral in 2015. Those videos led to unproven claims that abortion clinics across the country were selling fetal tissue for profit. The Select Panel is expected to release a final report on its investigation into fetal tissue donations before Congress adjourns later this month, according to Special Panel spokesman Mike Reynard.

Lawsuit alleges clinic donated fetal tissue without woman’s consent

A woman who underwent an abortion at Southwestern Women’s Options is suing the Albuquerque clinic for allegedly not informing her and receiving permission before providing fetal tissue from her terminated pregnancy for research at the University of New Mexico. The lawsuit, filed late last month in district court in Albuquerque, also accuses the clinic’s director, Curtis Boyd, and physician, Carmen Landau, of negligence for not informing Jessica Duran the fetal tissue would be donated for medical research. Landau, according to the lawsuit, treated Duran when she underwent an abortion in October 2012. “Women are supposed to be informed, supposed to be given information about the nature of the research, the benefits of the research, and given the opportunity to decide what happens,” Elisa Martinez, executive director of New Mexico Alliance for Life, which supports the lawsuit but is not part of the legal proceeding, said in an interview. Related: GOP congressional panel wants abortion investigation in NM

Martinez described the lawsuit as “a result” of public records requests Alliance for Life made with UNM and a congressional panel’s investigation into the Albuquerque health clinic.

Planned Parenthood supporters rally, canvass in ABQ

A crowd of supporters wearing pink gathered at the Planned Parenthood clinic on San Mateo Boulevard in Albuquerque Saturday morning in anticipation of a day of canvassing in the North Valley. “On Nov. 8, pussy grabs back, and we’re not afraid to say it,” Marshall Martinez, public affairs manager of Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico, said to a cheering crowd in a reference to Donald Trump’s infamous 2005 hot mic video leaked from Access Hollywood earlier this month. The rally and day of canvassing is part of a larger “Pink Out The Vote” sponsored by Planned Parenthood across the country. “We know what’s at stake,” New Mexico Democratic Party Chairwoman Debra Haaland said at the rally.

Pro- and anti-abortion rights groups spend thousands on local races

In a campaign season dominated by Donald Trump’s comments on groping women and several allegations against him of doing so, media attention on traditionally hot-button electoral issues like abortion access has been relegated to the side. But that doesn’t mean advocates aren’t using the issue of abortion to influence elections this year. On the local level, two political action committees on opposing sides of abortion rights are injecting thousands of dollars to influence down-ballot races. Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico, for example, raised $10,000 to target four hotly contested state legislative races that could help decide which party controls the state House of Representatives and state Senate. The Right to Life Committee of New Mexico PAC, on the other hand, has spent more than $4,500 in the primaries and general election to encourage its base, which opposes abortion rights, to vote in a year that’s expected to be an uphill climb for Republicans.