Thursday night, in one of the last floor speeches of the year, Sen. Cameron Reny (D-Lincoln) became the first supporter of Gov. Janet Mills’ late-term abortion bill to acknowledge the Maine Wire’s reporting on Dr. Shannon Carr.
As the Maine Wire has reported, Dr. Carr is a late-term abortion provider who was tapped by Democrats to serve as an expert medical witness in favor of the late-term abortion bill, LD 1619.
What those Democrats might not have known, however, was that Dr. Carr was named in a 2017 wrongful death suit filed by the family of Keisha Atkins, a 23-year-old woman who received late-term abortion services from Carr at the Southwestern Women’s Options clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The details surrounding Atkins’ death were highly relevant to the debate around LD 1619 not just because supporters relied on Carr’s expert testimony, but also because LD 1619 will legalize exactly the kind of late-term abortions in Maine that cost Atkins her life in February of 2017.
LD 1619 contained no requirements that abortion clinics operating in Maine enhance their emergency care capacity in order to protect women’s health during late-term abortions in the event complications arise, as happened with Atkins. By Carr’s own admission, the kinds of abortions LD 1619 will legalize are more dangerous for the mother than the more common first trimester abortions.
Late Thursday night, Sen. Reny read a statement from Carr that responded to Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin), who had used the facts established by the Maine Wire to inform his testimony about LD 1619 and an amendment that would have prevented the trafficking of fetal remains in Maine (an amendment Democrats defeated).
Here’s Carr’s response, in part, as read by Reny:
“As part of his remarks, the senator named me personally and told lies regarding an abortion case I was part of in another state. He clearly cherry picked aspects of this case from a source espousing disinformation. He mischaracterized and took elements of the case out of context as the basis for his comments.”
Neither Reny nor Carr bothered to specify what exactly Brakey and the Maine Wire got wrong.
Instead, Carr, speaking through Reny, merely asserted that the information was all false disinformation, cherry-picked details, and outright lies.
It would appear that Reny did no due diligence before reading Carr’s attack on Brakey and the Maine Wire into the record of the Senate. Because, as we will show, Carr’s allegations, as conveyed by Reny, are themselves mischaracterizations of the Maine Wire’s reporting and the factual record.
The Death of Keisha Atkins
If you read the original Maine Wire report on Carr, you will see the entire story is sourced throughout using the following sources:
The entire transcript of a 67-page deposition Carr gave as part of the Atkins family’s wrongful death lawsuit; video excerpts of Carr’s deposition available online; a news report in the Albuquerque Journal and pro-life media; the Atkins’ family’s complaint filed in the Second Judicial District Court of New Mexico, which named “Shannon Carr” individually; a document bearing Carr’s signature that showed she signed off on Atkins’ abortion after a 20-minute consult; a document bearing Carr’s signature that established Atkins’ eligibility for Medicaid for the abortion; the University of New Mexico’s report from the Office of the Medical Examiner; emails from the UNM later provided as part of the lawsuit; extensive documentation of the case from Abortion on Trial, a non-profit that litigated on behalf of the Atkins family, including records the defendants obtained during the case; and statements issued by the University of New Mexico regarding changes to their fetal tissue research program.
In every case, the Maine Wire linked to the relevant source or provided copies of non-public documents in their entirety to support the reporting of the facts surrounding Atkins’ death and Carr’s involvement as a provider of late-term abortion.
The reporting also acknowledged that Carr never admitted to any wrongdoing, was not found guilty of anything, and remained a medical practitioner in good standing with the relevant medical boards. The reporting made no allegations of criminal conduct concerning Carr, but merely relayed the factual circumstances around a wrongful death case that led her to return to Maine.
Reny is not the only abortion-supporter in Maine who declined to avail themselves of the facts concerning the death of Keisha Atkins.
Maine’s pro-abortion newspapers — the Bangor Daily News and the Portland Press Herald — both refused to publish an op-ed from a respected medical professional detailing the factual record and its relevance to the LD 1619 debate. Their newsrooms either did not understand the salience of her case, were not allowed to write about it, or decided it wasn’t a newsworthy contribution to their voluminous coverage of the late-term abortion debate this year.
Since there has been a scurrilous allegation that the Maine Wire’s reporting on Keisha Atkins’ death involved “cherry-picking” facts in order to produce “disinformation,” let’s revisit the facts and the sources.
As an abortion provider at Dr. Curtis Boyd’s Southwestern Women’s Options in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Dr. Shannon Carr was named and deposed in a wrongful death and malpractice case following the death of 23-year-old Keisha Atkins.
Here is the full complaint for Medical Malpractice / Medical Negligence, Wrongful Death, Unfair Trade Practices, Civil Conspiracy, filed Aug. 8, 2018 in the Second District Court of the State of New Mexico; named parties include Shannon Carr.
The complete transcript of a deposition provided by Shannon Carr on October 21, 2019:
Dr. Boyd and the University of New Mexico Hospital settled the Atkins’ family’s claims for $1.26 million, according to reporting in The Albuquerque Journal, May 9, 2022, “UNM, clinic settle for $1.26M in abortion death,” by Colleen Heild.
Quote from that report:
Six months pregnant at the age of 23, Keisha Atkins spent the final week of her life trying to get an elective legal abortion in 2017 in Albuquerque. She died midway through the dayslong outpatient process. For that, the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and a private late-term abortion clinic in Albuquerque agreed to pay her estate a total of $1.26 million in exchange for the dismissal of a politically charged wrongful death/medical malpractice lawsuit, according to state and court records obtained by the Journal. UNM, which state records show paid $365,000 of the total, was accused of negligently referring Atkins to the private Southwestern Women’s Options clinic near downtown Albuquerque after she was deemed ineligible for an elective abortion at UNM’s Center for Reproductive Health. Southwestern Women’s Options, founded by Dr. Curtis Boyd, agreed via a court mediation to settle for $900,000 the claims that its subsequent treatment of Atkins fell below the standard of care and was negligent, court records show. The lawsuit filed by Atkins’ mother and sister alleged clinic providers failed to identify, diagnose and provide care for the young woman after she showed signs of sepsis two days into a medical induction abortion procedure. Such procedures require a woman to be administered medication to stop the fetal heartbeat, go home, and then return to a medical provider to undergo labor and delivery of the fetus. The clinic and its doctors denied any wrongdoing in response to the claims. Lawyers representing UNMH and the private abortion clinic didn’t return Journal phone calls seeking comment. Southwestern Women’s Option clinic, in settling its part of the lawsuit, sought a confidentiality provision to bar the parties from discussing the settlement. They are specifically not permitted to disparage the clinic or its doctors, according to the settlement agreement, which was filed as an exhibit in the lawsuit. The settlements were reached last fall; the case was formally dismissed in April.
Dr. Shannon Carr personally authorized the elective late-term abortion on Keisha Atkins after a 20-minute interview. She listed working as a “waitress at Appleby’s” among the reasons for authorizing an elective late-term abortion on a healthy woman and healthy baby.
A post interview report obtained by Abortion on Trial bears Shannon Carr’s signature and states her rationale for authorizing the abortion.
In the deposition, Carr confirms the authenticity of this document and her signature on it.
A second document, also obtained by Abortion on Trial, also bearing Shannon Carr’s signature, shows that Carr used her Jan. 31, 2017 diagnosis of mental health impact to certify, on the same day, that Atkins should be eligible for Medicaid coverage for the late-term abortion.
(Importantly, the idea of a medical professional’s determination of “medical necessity” was a big sticking point in the debate over LD 1619.)
Carr confirmed in the deposition that this document was authentic and that she signed it. She also confirmed that a 20-minute interview was all it took for her to diagnose that Atkins’ late-term abortion was medically necessary to protect her mental health.
After Carr authorized the late-term abortion on Jan 31, 2017, she instructed Atkins to return to the clinic the following morning to receive an injection of digoxin which would terminate the life of her baby.
From the deposition.
The morning of February 3, 2017, Atkins returned to the clinic exhibiting symptoms including shortness of breath and feverishness. Throughout the day her symptoms worsened.
From the deposition:
After a lengthy delay at the clinic, as Carr and others tried to care for Atkins, they called for an ambulance to transport her to the University of New Mexico’s emergency room, where Atkins later died.
A few remaining items:
After Atkins death, there appeared to be internal strife at the UNM hospital system concerning the exact cause of death. While the initial autopsy report tried to downplay the role of the abortion, emails obtained by Abortion on Trial showed doctors objecting to the characterization. That timeline and those documents are available in the original report on Carr.
Throughout the episode, there appeared to be a certain awareness of the political implications of what had happened.
It also later emerged that the clinic where Carr worked had an arrangement with UNM to provide fetal tissue leftover from late-term abortions to researchers. That caused a controversy in and of itself. State lawmakers questioned the program, UNM launched an investigation, and UNM later changed its policies. The FBI even reportedly considered a criminal inquiry.
Informed consent documents obtained by a whistleblower showed Southwest Women’s Options asking for permission to donate fetal tissue to UNM.
Should either Sen. Reny or Dr. Carr want to have a more earnest and fulsome conversation, the Maine Wire would be pleased to arrange for an on the record, audio recorded, and video recorded discussion at the time and place of their choosing.