Investigative

University of New Mexico agrees to pay settlement to family of woman killed by abortion

racism, abortion, Keisha Atkins

According to the pro-life group Abortion on Trial, the University of New Mexico (UNM) has agreed to pay a settlement of $365,000 to the Estate of Keisha Atkins, including her mother Tina Atkins, for negligently referring the 23-year-old Atkins to an abortionist that led to her death in 2017.

Atkins died of sepsis during a 24-week elective abortion at Southwestern Women’s Options abortion facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after UNM referred her to the facility for a non-medical late abortion. Since Medicaid does not cover elective abortions, abortionist Dr. Shannon Carr testified under oath that she marked the abortion as necessary for Atkins’ mental, physical, emotional, and familial health based on “sheer speculation.” This allowed Medicaid to cover the abortion at six months, but put Atkins’ health and life in danger from the serious risks associated with late abortions.

 

“UNM should have never referred Keisha to Curtis Boyd’s outpatient abortion facility, Southwestern Women’s Options,” said Jamie Jeffries, executive director of Abortion on Trial. “It is unacceptable medical care to perform an induction abortion outside of a hospital. Practitioners everywhere should be aware that referring women to private abortion clinics can result in legal action and subsequent liability.”

Despite the abortion facility’s claim that Atkins needed a late abortion to prevent “substantial and irreversible harm to her physical health, her mental health, her family health, her safety and her well being,” Atkins and her baby were believed to have been healthy overall — and Carr only spoke with Atkins for 20 minutes prior to the abortion. She admitted that she was only speculating that Atkins would struggle with depression, anxiety, and financial instability as a young, single mother.

An abortion at 24 weeks takes up to four days to complete. Documents obtained by Abortion on Trial show that, following her first appointment on January 31, 2017, Atkins was repeatedly drugged by the staff of Southwestern Women’s Options, with fentanyl and Versed (midazolam), both of which are known to cause “serious breathing problems.” In addition, they gave Atkins oxycodone and two doses of Mifeprex (the abortion pill) as part of an experiment. Each time Atkins returned to the facility over the course of the following four days, she was drugged and sent back to her hotel with no medical supervision.

READ: What the research really shows about abortion’s potential physical risks

 

When Atkins returned to the abortion facility on February 3, she went into respiratory distress and was taken to the hospital where she died. Originally, the medical examiner ruled Atkins’ death as “natural” from pregnancy, a decision that stumped the doctors at the hospital who tried to save her and who agreed she had died from a septic abortion.

“While the settlement against the UNM Board of Regents provides important financial relief to the Atkins family, it also underscores the need for safety laws for late term abortions,” said New Mexico Rep. Rebecca Dow (R). “The New Mexico Legislature has chosen many times to ignore the safety of the mother during a late term abortion. Informed consent of the risks of any procedure is a foundational patient right and should be honored in the abortion context as well. It is a shame that UNM continues to fail to provide adequate information about the serious risks of these procedures. While I believe there are many alternatives to abortion, the simple truth is that a woman who opts to receive an abortion should receive the same information of the risks of the procedure that is afforded in every other medical environment.”

Abortion is legal in New Mexico at all stages of pregnancy. Southwestern Women’s Options is facing its own wrongful death case regarding Atkins.

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