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August 30, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, NM - Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in the First Judicial District Court requesting the court immediately order the New Mexico Corrections Department to provide appropriate medical care to an incarcerated woman suffering from abnormal uterine bleeding and symptoms consistent with pelvic organ prolapse. Though S.M.* has complained of consistent pelvic pressure and pain, urinary incontinence, and heavy bleeding, among other symptoms, since June 2018, Springer Correctional Facility has refused to take her to a medical specialist. The ACLU of New Mexico argues the denial of appropriate care amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the New Mexico Constitution. 

“Our client is not asking for anything extraordinary or difficult to provide,” said ACLU of New Mexico attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow Lalita Moskowitz. “She is asking to see a medical specialist who can properly diagnose and treat her so that she won’t have to continue living in a constant state of pain, embarrassment, and fear about her health.” 

On May 2, 2018, after complaining of pain for months, S.M. was taken to see a nurse practitioner employed by Centurion, the company NMCD contracts with to provide healthcare to incarcerated individuals. The nurse diagnosed S.M. with a type of pelvic organ prolapse and referred her to a hospital in Raton, New Mexico for an ultrasound. Though the ultrasound revealed the presence of possible malignant growths elsewhere in her body, it did not provide any information regarding the severity of her pelvic organ prolapse, as an ultrasound is not the appropriate diagnostic tool for such a condition. What S.M. requires is a visit with a doctor certified in obstetrics and gynecology who would have the appropriate medical expertise to create a suitable treatment plan. Although the ACLU and S.M. requested an appointment with a specialist on several occasions, she has yet to be taken to see one.  

“The few steps NMCD and Centurion have taken to address our client’s serious medical conditions have been cursory, blatantly inappropriate, and entirely ineffective,” said Moskowitz. “It should never have come to this, but we’re now asking the court to intervene and uphold S.M.’s constitutional rights so that a treatable illness doesn’t result in permanent harm, or worse, a tragic loss of life.”

*The Petitioner’s name has been changed to protect her identity as the motion reveals sensitive and private information about her health.

A copy of the motion is available below.