Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

WV State News

July 10, 2013

W.Va. abortion provider denies lawsuit allegations

CHARLESTON — A Charleston abortion provider denies a lawsuit’s allegations that it ignored a woman’s wishes to stop the procedure and that she was improperly medicated.

Attorneys for the Women’s Health Center and Dr. Rodney Lee Stephens say in a court filing that 26-year-old Itai Gravely of Charleston didn’t tell them to stop the abortion.

Her lawsuit in Kanawha County Circuit Court also claims the doctor left the fetus’ head inside her uterus, and alleges that she told the doctors to stop when she experienced abdominal pain.

In their response to the lawsuit, lawyers for the center and Stephens say that Gravely was told that “retained fragments and tissue” could remain after the abortion, and that could lead to the need for further medical attention.

The Charleston Daily Mail (http://bit.ly/15e4eoy) reports that the response was filed Monday.

“There was no unwanted or inappropriate touching,” and Gravely underwent the procedure with “informed consent, voluntarily and of her free will,” the filing says. Nor was she improperly restrained, it says.

Gravely is represented by a team of lawyers affiliated with anti-abortion groups. Her lawsuit said she was in so much pain after the procedure that she went to a hospital, where a skull and other parts of the fetus were removed.

The Women’s Health Center said Gravely “complained of pain consistent with the experience of other women in having this procedure but not pain that was suggestive or indicative of a complication.”

One dispute in the lawsuit is how far along Gravely was. Stephens says she was nine weeks pregnant, but doctors at the hospital said she was more than 13 weeks.

At nine weeks, a fetus is three-quarters of an inch long, while it’s about 2 1/2 inches at 12 weeks.

The lawsuit is part of the reason that West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey asked the Women’s Health Center and the Kanawha Surgicenter to complete questionnaires about their practices and policies. Both declined last week but said they comply with all laws and regulations.

Morrisey has said he’ll continue reviewing the state of abortion regulation in West Virginia to ensure women’s health is protected.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources has taken no position on Morrisey’s inquiry but says that because there is no specific licensing category for abortion providers, there is no specific agency to regulate them.

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