February 26, 2016

UNM to fight part of abortion subpoena

NM Political Report has learned the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center is resisting part of a subpoena from a U.S. congressional panel conducting an investigation into local abortion providers.

unm hospital logoIn a Thursday email to Health Sciences Center employees obtained by NM Political Report, Chancellor Paul Roth writes that UNM plans to fight a portion of the subpoena that asks for “the names of faculty, staff, residents and students who participated” in fetal tissue research conducted by the university.

“I am concerned that supplying this information would potentially endanger the safety of faculty, staff and students on our campus,” Roth wrote. “We are working to clarify and revise this request for personally identifiable information and its relevance to the stated charge of the Select Panel.”

Roth added that he is “steadfast” in his “commitment to ensuring the safety of everyone on our campus, as well as cultivating an environment that fosters freedom of thought and scientific inquiry.”

Roth’s email comes after another Albuquerque women’s health clinic, Southwest Women’s Options, similarly promised to resist part of another subpoena by the Congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives asking for five years of employee information.

UNM and Southwest Women’s Options both offer abortion procedures to women. Both clinics maintain they’re cooperating with the Congressional panel’s investigation,

The panel, led by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, is looking into whether abortion providers are profiting from tissue research conducted on aborted fetuses.

Critics, as well as Democratic members of the panel, have dismissed the investigation as politically motivated by anti-abortion activists. Previous investigations into similar allegations against Planned Parenthood netted no wrongdoing.

The Washington Post editorial board referred to the investigation as a “witch hunt” and said the “demand for the names of doctors, medical students and researchers involved in performing abortions or conducting research with fetal tissue” is of particular concern.

“I want to assure you that all research at the HSC is conducted in compliance with state and federal law,” Roth writes in the email to employees. “The fetal tissue we received has been used for bench research aimed at saving and improving the lives of extremely premature babies. No money or consideration has been given by the university or any of its staff or faculty in exchange for this tissue.”

Before Blackburn issued the subpoenas, she accused UNM of not cooperating with the panel’s investigation. UNM disputed the allegation, maintaining that Blackburn threatened subpoenas before their panel’s self-imposed deadline for the university to hand over documents expired.