ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The New Mexico Medical Board on Thursday exonerated an Albuquerque doctor of gross negligence for her handling of a late-term abortion in a case that raised questions about whether politics trumped patient privacy.
Anti-abortion activists filed the complaint against Dr. Shelly Sella after hearing a 911 call from the Southwestern Women’s Options Clinic about a woman who suffered a ruptured uterus during a May 2011 abortion there and was rushed to a hospital. Sella is a former colleague of slain Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller and one of the few doctors in the country who still openly performs third-term abortions.
The New York woman had sought the abortion after finding out the fetus had severe brain abnormalities. The medical board opened the probe based on the phone call submitted by members of Operation Rescue. Nearly two years later, the intimate details of the 26-year-old mother’s medical treatment, mental state, her religion, where she lived and family status became public record in transcripts from a three-day hearing where a board prosecutor accused Sella of gross negligence.
Sella’s attorney, Molly Schmidt Nowara, commended the board for rebuffing a complaint from people whose “motivation is purely politics.”
“I think this outcome shows that the process works,” Nowara said. “This is great news for the women of New Mexico.”
The complainant, Cheryl Sullenger of Wichita, Kan., issued a statement saying the “decision to protect abortionists and their below-standard procedures that endanger women and violate the law only serves to place more women at risk.”
Five of the eight board members voted, agreeing unanimously to dismiss the complaint.
Hearing officer David Thomson said there was no violation of law and “there certainly is no willful or wanton conduct” to justify a charge of gross negligence.