Editorial: UNM lab notes on fetal tissue are inappropriate - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: UNM lab notes on fetal tissue are inappropriate

Respect for fetal tissue harvested from pregnant women during abortion procedures apparently was in short supply in the minds of some of those involved in research at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

How else can you explain unnamed faculty members asking for fetal brains for what a lab assistant casually calls “summer camp students.” The same lab assistant also jotted down “whoo hoo!!” when an Albuquerque abortion clinic provided a whole fetal pancreas for another project and drew a frowny face next to an entry that showed another fetal pancreas was not intact.

That’s what documents subpoenaed by the U.S. House Select Panel on Infant Lives show. The procurement notes and hundreds of pages of other documents were obtained from the Health Sciences Center and the Southwestern Women’s Options abortion clinic in Albuquerque as part of the panel’s investigation into the use of fetal tissue for medical research.

In a notation on May 24, 2012, a lab assistant wrote “Asked clinic for digoxin treated tissue 24-28 wks. for methylation study & because (redacted) wants whole, fixed brains to dissect w/summer camp students.” Note: Although it has no basis in law to do so, UNM is refusing to reveal the names of those involved, citing safety concerns

It’s interesting that the study appeared to be related to the abortion itself. Digoxin is a heart medication that is sometimes injected into amniotic fluid or a fetus to cause the fetus to die before an abortion is performed. A methylation study looks for gene activation in human tissue samples.

And for faculty members to dissect donated fetal brain tissue in front of not just UNM students, but also the children of faculty members, during what UNM officials are calling a “Neuroscience Summer Experience” – somehow trying to draw a distinction between that and the term “summer camp” – is inappropriate at best and barbaric at worst.

A Health Science Center spokesman said the use of the term “summer camp” was “an inartful shorthand that inaccurately described an educational neuroscience research program.”

While UNM says the university, the Office of Diversity’s Dream Makers or the independent Mind Research Network located on the UNM campus, did not “sponsor” the summer program, classes were held in various campus sites and apparently conducted by two faculty members. These summer programs were held in 2012 and 2014.

Apparently, having employees conduct these sessions in UNM facilities doesn’t constitute “sponsorship” – a university-level parsing of words.

The university has stonewalled multiple Inspection of Public Records Act requests from the anti-abortion New Mexico Alliance for Life for records regarding fetal tissue obtained from the clinic, saying it did not keep that kind of information. However, the procurement notes indicate that, indeed, such information is kept in great detail.

Having a legal abortion is a difficult enough decision for most women, but to have the tissue they agreed to donate, ostensibly to advance science, treated in this way is unacceptable. It’s one thing to have enthusiasm for one’s work, but the flippant tone of the notebook entries is just plain wrong on any level.

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.

Home » Opinion » Editorials » Editorial: UNM lab notes on fetal tissue are inappropriate


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

taboola desktop

1
Editorial: Want better educational outcomes? Start with getting students ...
Editorials
Woody Allen once said 80% of ... Woody Allen once said 80% of success in life is just showing up. In no setting is this durable conce ...
2
Editorial: NM GOP needs to explain doctored mailer
Editorials
An altered stock image of darkened ... An altered stock image of darkened hands cutting a white child's hair sure does appear to play ...
3
Editorial: Navajo project brings clean water for all a ...
Editorials
Imagine having to rely on hand-pumped ... Imagine having to rely on hand-pumped wells, windmills, earth dams and snowdrifts to gather enough w ...
4
Editorial: Enough disinformation; our elections are secure
Editorials
With the fall general election just ... With the fall general election just over a month away, it bears repeating New Mexico elections are a ...
5
Editorial: Best fiesta commute? Let the pros drive
Editorials
Two things happen in Albuquerque every ... Two things happen in Albuquerque every October: The balloon fiesta delivers fantasy. And the traffic ...
6
Editorial: NM needs leaders who will tackle real water ...
Editorials
Bankruptcy, Ernest Hemingway famously wrote, comes ... Bankruptcy, Ernest Hemingway famously wrote, comes "gradually, then suddenly."  &nb ...
7
Editorial: Crime's unrelenting hold
Editorials
... ...
8
Editorial: Military members deserve clarity on NM election laws
Editorials
Article V of the state Constitution ... Article V of the state Constitution says a person must have "resided continuously in New Mexic ...
9
Editorial: UNM is right to protect all flavors of ...
Editorials
If there's a silver lining to ... If there's a silver lining to the national attention of angry protesters storming a ballroom t ...