New Mexico's 'dirty little secret'

Abortion | Angela Lu

New Mexico's 'dirty little secret'

Shelly Sella

The New Mexico Medical Board held a disciplinary hearing last week for an abortionist who botched a procedure at 35 weeks. The hearing highlighted New Mexico’s lax abortion laws, which allow for abortions up to the day of birth and often are paid for with taxpayer dollars.

Shelley Sella of Southwest Women’s Options in Albuquerque is accused of performing an induction abortion in May 2011 on a woman who previously had a Caesarian Section, which should have disqualified her from the procedure. Sella also overused uterine stimulants to increase the severity of the woman’s contractions until the uterus ruptured and she was rushed to a hospital.

Induction abortions skirt the federal ban of partial-birth abortions by killing the baby in the womb through injections that cause cardiac arrest. The abortionist then gives the mother drugs to induce early labor. The baby is delivered whole or dismembered.

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Catholic pro-life group Project Defending Life uncovered the case after obtaining more than a dozen 911 recordings dating back to 2008 of women being transferred from Southwestern Women’s Option to hospitals after botched abortions. Tara Shaver of Project Defending Life partnered with national pro-life group Operation Rescue to file 11 complaints with the medical board last year, and only Sella’s case was taken up. 

“In other states, people have lost their licenses over these types of calls,” Shaver said concerning the other 10 complaints. “But in New Mexico there is a strong pro-abortion bias...Unfortunately the medical board didn’t come to the conclusion that more [of the calls] were medically negligent.”

 Shaver said there is no way to know whether any of the women died from the botched procedures because of patient confidentiality, although many of the conditions are life-threatening.

Sella previously worked as a late-term abortionist at George Tiller’s center in Wichita, Kansas, which Operation Rescue helped close in 2009. She cancelled her Kansas license when her co-worker Anna Kristin Neuhaus was charged with providing illegal late-term abortion referrals to Sella using fake health diagnoses. Neuhaus’s medical license has since been permanently revoked.

Sella now works with Susan Robinson, also a Tiller associate, at Curtis Boyd’s Southwestern Women’s Option, the only abortion clinic in the state that specializes in lucrative late-term abortions past 22 weeks gestation. Late-term abortions can cost more than $10,000 and women from all over the nation come to the clinic to have them.

New Mexico’s policy of having Medicaid cover late-term abortions, even without a medical reason, only makes the situation worse, said Troy Newman, Operation Rescue president. 

“It’s their dirty little secret,” he said. In 2011, tax money paid for 1,786 abortions. 

Operation Rescue and Project Defending Life also found some tax money received by the University of New Mexico goes to the university-run abortion center, which aborts babies up to 22 weeks. The money is spent on financing the clinic; training medical residents in abortion techniques, particularly for late-term abortions; and conducting experimental research on patients with regard to abortion, contraception, and sterilizations. 

“This is a state with very little abortion laws, and we’re hoping to change that,” Newman said. “When we find a situation like this happen, we bring it to the legislature to show how horrible a 35-week abortion is....We’ll be working with legislature to get some kind of positive legislation passed.” 

He believes that pro-life advocates can get even Democrats behind laws restricting late-term abortions, pointing to a recent Gallup poll that showed 86 percent of Americans are against abortions in the third trimester.

The New Mexico Medical Board will decide Sella’s case in three months.

“I think [this case] is important because abortionists think they are above the law, especially in New Mexico [where] abortions are highly unregulated,” Shaver said. “If she is disciplined, it sends a strong message to her colleague that this is not acceptable, and that those of us who oppose it will not stop letting the public know how women are being harmed.”

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