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U.S. House issues subpoenas to HSC faculty

WASHINGTON – A U.S. House panel investigating the fetal tissue research industry issued 12 more subpoenas Wednesday – including some to individuals associated with the University of New Mexico.

The subpoenas from the Republican-led Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives follow a previous round issued in February that targeted the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, which has conducted fetal tissue research, and Southwestern Women’s Options, an Albuquerque abortion provider. The subpoenas issued Wednesday require two UNMHSC faculty members, whose names were redacted in public documents released by the panel, to testify at depositions in Washington next month.

The panel also issued additional subpoenas Wednesday to StemExpress, a California company that had been targeted as part of an undercover investigation by the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress into the alleged harvesting and sale of fetal parts last year. That investigation, which led to indictments in Texas of two people involved in secret video recordings, triggered the U.S. House panel’s inquiry.

“The Select Investigative Panel is working in a thoughtful and thorough manner to find the facts about what exactly is going on at these abortion businesses and procurement organizations,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who is chairwoman of the select panel, said in a statement Wednesday. “Unfortunately, some of these organizations have so redacted documents – even after being subpoenaed – that it is impossible for us to get the complete picture of what is actually going on. Others have refused to produce documents required. There should be no resistance to letting all the facts come out – but some abortion supporters seem to be clearly rattled with basic facts coming to light.”

UNM and Southwestern Women’s Options have both said they would comply with the panel’s request for information and have provided documents, but both have resisted providing names of doctors, researchers and others out of concerns for their safety if the names were to become public.

Billy Sparks, a spokesman for UNMHSC, said in a statement provided to the Journal that the health center stands behind its fetal tissue research as integral to some medical advancements.

“We will continue to respond promptly and respectfully to the congressional panel’s requests,” Sparks said. “However, we simply cannot comply safely with the demand that accompanies the subpoenas for documents that identify staff and students who worked in the laboratory where this research was conducted. Such disclosure would expose our employees and students to serious risk of harm.”

Elisa Martinez, executive director of the anti-abortion New Mexico Alliance for Life, urged UNM to comply fully with the congressional subpoenas.

“The safety and rights of women undergoing abortions, including whether or not they were given proper consent per federal regulation, and compliance with the law outweigh protecting the ‘privacy’ of UNM and Southwestern Women’s Options staff who may have been complicit with violations of the law,” she said in a statement.

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