The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

June 11, 2013

Woman sues W.Va. clinic over abortion procedure

CHARLESTON — A West Virginia woman is suing a doctor who she claims performed an abortion procedure on her, even though she asked him to stop because she was having severe pain.

The lawsuit claims the doctor left the fetus’ head inside the woman’s uterus.

The Family Policy Council of West Virginia, an evangelical Christian group, said Monday the medical malpractice lawsuit was filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court on behalf of 26-year-old Itai Gravely against the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia in Charleston and Dr. Rodney Stephens.

Neither Stephens nor the clinic’s executive director immediately returned telephone messages Monday. Stephens’ home phone repeatedly rang busy Monday afternoon.

Family Policy Council President Jeremy Dys said Gravely had been going to the clinic for birth control, returned when she unexpectedly became pregnant and was persuaded by clinic counselors to have an abortion in April 2012. The pregnancy was near the end of the first trimester; estimates ranged from 9 to 13 weeks.

According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a fetus tends to be about 2 inches in length at 9 weeks and about 3 1/2 inches long at 12 weeks. Gravely was given a sedative but wanted to stop the procedure because she started having severe abdominal pain. The lawsuit said Stephens ignored her instructions and directed other employees to have her physically restrained.

“When a patient tells the doctor ‘stop’ and the doctor continues, that’s egregious,” Dys said. “She has revoked her informed consent. They did not regain her informed consent, and they proceeded with the procedure anyway with her physically restrained on the table. That’s unacceptable.”

Afterward, there was no record of Stephens checking on Gravely in the recovery room, and she was asked to leave through a back door with the assistance of her father and a cousin, Dys said.

When her pain didn’t subside, Gravely called the next day but was unable to transport herself to the clinic. Instead, she was taken by ambulance to a Charleston hospital, where an exam revealed the fetus’ head remained in her uterus, Dys said.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

“Tia’s greatest concern is for other women who, like she was, are completely unaware of what goes on inside of Women’s Health Center of West Virginia,” Dys said. “Her motivation is that other women aren’t harmed.”

The Family Policy Council is being assisted in the lawsuit by Alliance Defending Freedom, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Christian civil rights group that also has sued an abortion doctor in Colorado.

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