Before Dr. Shelley Sella started working for Dr. George Tiller, there had been an assassination attempt and a bombing of his Kansas abortion clinic. One time, someone broke in, got a hose and flooded the place.
Every Wednesday, a man with a bullhorn would sit on a fence outside Dr. Tiller’s Women’s Health Care clinic in Witchita and yell “Daddy, Daddy” to the partners of incoming patients.
Businesses the clinic frequented were boycotted; garbage service stopped. Cab companies refused to pick up incoming patients at the airport. FedEx refused to pick up the clinic’s packages.
After Tiller’s murder by an anti-abortion fanatic in 2009, Sella moved West, joining the practice of one of only four abortion clinics in the country that perform late-term abortions today — in Albuquerque.
Of the estimated 10,000 abortions Sella has performed in the past 12 years, between 500 and 1,000 involved late-term pregnancies of 25 weeks or more, Sella testified last November in a closed disciplinary hearing before a hearing officer for the New Mexico Medical Board.
The board’s investigation, which accuses Sella of gross negligence in connection with a late-term abortion in Albuquerque in 2011, was spurred by some of the same groups that once protested at Tiller’s now-closed clinic in Kansas.
Sella has denied the allegations and said in documents on file at the Medical Board that the uterine rupture involving a 26-year-old New York woman was a “bad complication” linked to the patient’s prior C-section.
Sella, 55, is a native of Israel who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Sackler School of Medicine in Israel.
Her New Mexico medical licensing file shows three prior medical board investigations in Kansas that were triggered by complaints from the national anti-abortion group, Operation Rescue.
Only one was sustained, involving a handwritten note in a patient’s medical file that wasn’t legible or sufficient. She was required to take a course on record keeping.
Sella testified at the hearing that she lives in Oakland, Calif., but shares a practice in Albuquerque with Dr. Susan Robinson, who also worked with Tiller.
She and Robinson are featured in a documentary called “After Tiller” that was screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in January.
Sella testified during the disciplinary hearing that she felt “bereft” after Tiller was assassinated.
“Why did you continue to provide abortion services?” her attorney Joseph Goldberg asked.
“… I never thought of stopping, very committed to this work,” she responded. “Everyday that I go to work renews my commitment.”
— This article appeared on page A6 of the Albuquerque Journal