The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center ending its decade-long relationship with Albuquerque’s Southwestern Women’s Options prompted speculation that the university had caved to anti-choice protesters.
UNM had a clinical rotation partnership with Southwestern Women’s Options, meaning that medical residents and fellows undergo training at the center for brief periods. But the speculation surrounding the end of that partnership, first reported by the Albuquerque Journal, has yet to be borne out.
The radical anti-choice group called Operation Rescue has for years targeted Southwestern Women’s Options, one of four facilities in the country to provide third-trimester abortions. The center is one of three providers in the area where university medical fellows learn to perform termination procedures.
The reason for ending the training relationship with Southwestern Women’s Options was left vague in the Journal story, which reported that the publicly funded university was “under new scrutiny about the relationship between clinic director Dr. Curtis Boyd.” School officials cited a “desire for a more academic approach at an out-of-state institution,” the Journal reported, and alluded to Boyd’s position as a clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the university as being “under review.”
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An anonymous source with knowledge of the situation told Rewire on Tuesday that Southwestern Women’s Options simply didn’t perform an adequate volume of abortions to train residents and fellows.
The university, in a statement issued Tuesday, reiterated a commitment to abortion procedure training, which is required by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, and available at facilities besides Southwestern Women’s Options. University medical fellows, for example, undergo training at the UNM Center for Reproductive Health, where abortions are also performed.
The university statement makes no mention of removing Boyd from the faculty.
Boyd responded to requests for comment about his position with the university in a statement. He said, in part, “our expert doctors and staff have long provided training in abortion care for physicians and other health care providers from a number of medical schools, including UNMHSC. Teaching medical providers to perform abortion safely and exposing doctors to compassionate, woman-centered abortion care has always been part of our mission and it always will be.”
Boyd’s statement made no mention of whether his faculty status was in jeopardy. On Tuesday, Boyd remained on the university web site.
The Journal story also reported that its reporters, “at least one state lawmaker,” and an anti-choice advocacy group “had raised questions” about the fetal tissue donation program at Boyd’s clinic.
Fetal tissue donation is a lawful and voluntary practice that has come under scrutiny after a series of covertly recorded smear videos were edited to make it appear that Planned Parenthood, which accepts voluntary fetal tissue donations at a few facilities, was acting unlawfully. The videos were the work of an anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). Every state and federal investigation has so far cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.
Even so, anti-choice lawmakers, including those in New Mexico, have used the heavily edited footage as a cudgel against reproductive rights.
In his statement, Boyd addressed the importance of fetal tissue donation in medical breakthroughs:
Women receiving care at Southwestern Women’s Options have donated fetal tissue to support lifesaving research for years. Fetal tissue research has made invaluable contributions to world health, including the polio vaccine, and to the survival of babies born prematurely. This is work we should all be in support of—for the lives saved through the research and for the tremendous good it has done for countless individuals and families.
New Mexico’s Republican-led house this year introduced laws to ban abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation and force abortion patients to receive parental notification, as Rewire has reported.
Here’s the full statement from the university in response to the Albuquerque Journal article:
The UNM Health Sciences Center and the UNM Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology remain committed to our Family Planning Fellowship and to providing residency training that meets Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requirements.
Until recently, one segment of the fellowship was being served at the Southwestern Women’s Options clinic. The decision to change rotation sites was a programmatic one meant to enrich the fellows’ experience. In the future they will be sent out of state for this rotation.
The timing of this decision was unrelated to a recent Albuquerque Journal article or our interactions with activists. It is based on our continued commitment to provide the best academic and clinical learning opportunities to our students.