When Jessica Duran walked into Southwest Women’s Options in Albuquerque, N.M., in 2012, she was cash-strapped, depressed, and 12 weeks pregnant.
Center staff told her she could have an abortion, and on one of her visits handed her a single document to sign, requiring her consent for the procedure and consent to donate her baby’s body to the abortion facility.
On Dec. 5, Duran filed a lawsuit over what they didn’t tell her: Her baby’s body parts probably went to the University of New Mexico (UNM) for research, an outcome she could have refused.
“The very people that advertise they offer women the right to choose at Southwestern Women’s Options are the very people who violated my right to choose,” Duran said in a press conference Monday morning. “They take advantage of women like me in frantic situations by not giving us all of the facts and information we are entitled to. They don’t tell us about the research agenda they are part of with UNM. They don’t tell us they are looking for our baby’s body parts to harvest.”
Duran’s lawsuit alleges Southwest Women’s Options broke state and federal law, breached its contract with her, and intentionally inflicted emotional distress.
“Everyone but me wanted this abortion, including the doctors,” Duran said. “[But] from the moment I had the abortion, I never felt good about the decision or myself. I felt as if I had left my heart at the clinic with my baby.”
The suit also claims Shelley Sella, an abortionist at Southwest Women’s Options who never treated Duran, signed paperwork stating she was eligible for Medicaid to cover her abortion. The suit accuses Sella of negligent supervision over Duran’s abortionist, Carmen Landau.
According to the suit and Duran’s supporters, the abortionists broke New Mexico’s Maternal, Fetal, and Infant Experimentation Act, which stipulates a pregnant woman must be informed of the details of research to be conducted on her unborn baby and that her consent is voluntary and can be withdrawn at any time.
“None of those rights were afforded Jessica Duran at the time of her abortion,” Elisa Martinez, director of New Mexico Alliance for Life, told me.
Lumping the consent for the procedure in with consent to allow the baby’s remains to be used for research is “an outright violation of women’s rights to informed consent,” Martinez said. “It’s deceptive.”
Duran filed her lawsuit after New Mexico Alliance for Life as well as the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives revealed the relationship between Southwest Women’s Options and the University of New Mexico.
In June, the panel called on New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas to investigate the two entities for their close relationship, for violating state law that forbids the donation of aborted baby parts for research, and to see if they violated federal law that bans the sale of fetal remains.
The ties between the University of New Mexico and Southwest Women’s Options went too deep, panel chairwoman Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., wrote to Balderas, with abortionists holding “volunteer faculty” status and the university “aggressively engaged in expanding abortion in New Mexico.”
The log of baby body parts, with their gestational ages and pickup times, disclosed by the panel in June gave rise to Duran’s belief that her baby was among those used for research by UNM students and faculty.
Now a mother of two boys, Duran said her abortion causes daily trauma.
“I was never told the misinformed choice I made was going to haunt me with deep pain and emotional regret,” she said. “They don’t tell you that you’re actually ending the life of a human, not just a clump of cells.”
— by Samantha Gobba