Editorial: Just what is a 'decedent'? - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Just what is a ‘decedent’?

It could come down to the state attorney general’s interpretation of the definition of a “decedent” as written in a New Mexico statute.

The chairwoman of a U.S. House panel looking into the fetal tissue research industry has asked New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas to investigate whether the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and Southwestern Women’s Options, a clinic that performs abortions in Albuquerque, are in violation of state law governing donation of body parts for medical research.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said Thursday that UNM and the clinic appear to be in violation of New Mexico’s Jonathan Spradling Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. Lawyers working for the Select Panel on Infant Lives interpret the 2007 act as prohibiting transfer of fetuses from induced abortions. The clinic and Health Sciences officials contend fetal tissue transfer is legal and necessary for medical research.

A reading of the language would seem to indicate that the panel’s concern is far from spurious. The law governs body part donations from people who have died. According to a definition in the act, “‘Decedent’ means a deceased individual whose body or part is or may be the source of an anatomical gift. ‘Decedent’ includes a stillborn infant and, subject to restrictions imposed by law other than the Jonathan Spradling Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, a fetus but not including a fetus that is the subject of an induced abortion.”

HSC spokesman Billy Sparks said the cited portion of the law actually provides for the tissue transfer. “The act specifically excludes fetuses from induced abortions from the definition of ‘decedents’,” he said.

But wouldn’t that interpretation mean only aborted fetuses would qualify under the law? Federal law allows abortion providers to transfer fetal tissue for medical research but prohibits them from selling it, although they are allowed to recover unspecified processing and shipping costs.

New Mexico has no official legislative history to provide guidance. While UNM officials and Washington lawyers can parse the language, the opinion that counts at this point is the attorney general’s.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
BCSO offers video, details of shooting by deputy
ABQnews Seeker
An 18-year-old who was shot by ... An 18-year-old who was shot by a Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputy late last month was holding an AR-15 pistol while running toward other deputies, ...
2
NM reports 969 new cases, 11 deaths
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico reported 969 new COVID-19 ... New Mexico reported 969 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday — an improvement from recent days — and 11 additional deaths. The state did see ...
3
Four critically injured in foothills-area crash
ABQnews Seeker
A two-vehicle crash left six people ... A two-vehicle crash left six people injured, four of them critically, Tuesday afternoon in Northeast Albuquerque. Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque police spokesman, said the ...
4
City Council denies $110 million facilities plan
ABQnews Seeker
New bonds included in package would ... New bonds included in package would have taken 19 years to pay off
5
Woman tries to set fire to the Islamic Center
ABQnews Seeker
Mosque officials believe she also tried ... Mosque officials believe she also tried to start a fire inside the center on Nov. 7
6
New Mexico could see snow, gusty winds
ABQnews Seeker
Snow levels will move to lower ... Snow levels will move to lower elevations in central and northern NM as Friday progresses
7
Man charged after police say he grabbed bus steering ...
ABQnews Seeker
Resulting crash injured several passengers; driver ... Resulting crash injured several passengers; driver is in critical condition
8
NM reports 3,794 new COVID cases
ABQnews Seeker
State also adds 12 virus deaths, ... State also adds 12 virus deaths, with four coming from Bernalillo County
9
Tuesday election to settle two City Council races
2021 city election
Voters will decide Tuesday what the ... Voters will decide Tuesday what the Albuquerque City Council will look like come January as the campaign season comes to a close with a ...