FBI reviewing claims that university violated abortion laws

The FBI recently began reviewing allegations that the University of New Mexico illegally procured fetuses from a local abortion clinic to conduct medical research, but could not confirm whether it has opened an official "investigation."

A U.S. House panel had issued criminal referrals to New Mexico's Attorney General in June 2016, but Republican Rep. Steve Pearce sent a follow-up request to Attorney General Jeff Sessions after state authorities failed to take action.

The FBI recently began reviewing allegations that the University of New Mexico illegally procured fetuses from a local abortion clinic to conduct medical research.

In 2016, the U.S. House Select Panel on Infant Lives concluded an investigation that produced evidence suggesting that UNM’s Health Sciences Center had violated both state and federal laws through its relationship with Southwestern Women’s Options (SWWO), a late-term abortion clinic in Albuquerque.

[RELATED: UNM researcher caught celebrating deliveries of aborted fetuses]

The Select Panel forwarded criminal referrals based on its findings to relevant officials, including New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, to request further investigation and potential legal action.

“Section 289g-2 requires safeguards be in place, including a concern that too close a relationship might be formed between an abortion clinic and researchers,” wrote Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Chair of the Select Panel. “Through its investigation, the Panel has discovered that personnel within UNM’s hospital and medical school have aggressively engaged in expanding abortion in New Mexico through the offices, personnel, and resources of UNM.”

According to LifeNews, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd recently responded to follow-up inquiries sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions by Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, confirming that “the Department takes these referrals seriously” and “has brought each of these referrals to the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for review and any appropriate follow-up action.”

Boyd further confirmed that the FBI had received the information and passed it along to the relevant field offices, but said Department policy forbade him from disclosing any specific information pertaining to matters “which may or may not be under investigation.”

[RELATED: Abortion doc: 'We have to get over the love affair with fetuses']

Pearce, who has been involved in the UNM controversy from the beginning, applauded the FBI and DOJ in a statement on his website, noting that they are the first agencies to have taken any action on the matter.

“After violations were unearthed between the University of New Mexico Health Center and the Southwestern Women’s Options, the New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas took no action to hold those accountable,” Pearce said.

“I applaud the action taken by the U.S. DOJ to take up not only the criminal referrals that were sent to New Mexico, but all fifteen criminal referrals that were sent out but not acted upon at the conclusion of the Select Panel’s investigation,” he added. “These infant lives are precious, and it is completely disgraceful and negligent to sit back while the rights of unborn lives are disregarded.”

[RELATED: University of Minnesota reveals purchase orders for fetal tissue]

Health Sciences Center spokeswoman Alex Sanchez told The Albuquerque Journal that UNM had not been contacted by the FBI, and only recently learned of the letter to Rep. Pearce.

“As is our practice, if we are contacted, we will cooperate fully,” Sanchez said.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @KylePerisic