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Texas Woman, Hospital Settle Body Cavity Search Lawsuit

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EL PASO (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A Texas hospital is settling a lawsuit with a woman who says she was subjected to invasive cavity searches by medical staff at the behest of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Court records show the border protection agency is not part of the settlement. The woman’s lawsuit continues against two border agents with last names Portillo and Herrera as well as two supervisors there.

The lawsuit says the 54-year-old Lovington, New Mexico, resident was randomly selected for an inspection in December 2012 at the Cordova border bridge in El Paso. After being searched by the agents, no evidence was found that she was carrying illicit drugs. She was taken to University Medical Center where, according to the lawsuit, doctors Michael Parsa and Christopher Cabanillas probed her against her will even after X-rays showed no foreign objects inside her. She was also given a CT exam, which did not yield any evidence of smuggling.

She was told to sign a consent form so that the border agency would pay for the procedures. After she refused, she received a $5,000 bill for the procedures.

In a statement, University Medical Hospital said the settlement is not intended to make the case “go away”, but to bring closure to the woman. It also stated they will make sure local law enforcement agencies understand that the hospital’s only concern is patient care.

The lawsuit states a medical center employee told the woman that procedures such as the ones performed on her were routinely performed on people brought by border agents.

She was not identified in court papers and terms of the settlement were not released.

Last year, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) settled a lawsuit with two women from Irving who filed a lawsuit claiming they were humiliated and the victims of an illegal “cavity search”, during a traffic stop.

***WARNING – GRAPHIC DASH CAM VIDEO***

A trooper claimed to have smelled marijuana coming from the women’s vehicle and performed a search, but turned up nothing. The male trooper then called a female trooper who proceeded to do a very personal cavity search to see if the women were hiding illegal items.

The women who filed suit said the female trooper used her fingers to search their anuses and vaginas, and used the same latex glove on both women. The women, who are aunt and niece, said the very personal body searches happened on the side of the road, in full view of passing vehicles. The searches yielded nothing.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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