The West Virginia Board of Medicine is responsible for licensing only physicians, said Robert Knittle, its executive director. If someone complains about a physician, the board looks into it, he added.
As for inspecting facilities, "that's beyond the jurisdiction of the board, to do something like that," Knittle said.
Doctors are required to renew their licenses every two years, Knittle said. Facilities that dispense drugs must be certified to do so and are subject to inspections. Those inspections are rare and are conducted in response to complaints, Knittle said.
If any entity had oversight authority for abortion clinics, Knittle guessed it would be the state Office of Licensure and Certification.
Dadisman said that office is under the DHHR umbrella and does not have that oversight authority.
The National Abortion Federation is a professional association of abortion providers in North America. It offers training and services to providers as part of their membership.
Both clinics in West Virginia are voluntary members of the federation. The independent organization inspects member sites every three to five years, said president and CEO Vicki Saporta.
While membership is voluntary, Saporta said reputable providers choose to become part of the federation.
"Quality providers are interested in joining NAF for a variety of reasons: they are invested in providing quality care, and we help them do so," she said.
Saporta noted that both West Virginia clinics are in good standing.
In addition to the health center, Kanawha Surgicenter is the only other facility that conducts elective abortions. Dr. Gorli Harish is the only person at the facility who performs the procedure.
In May he said the last time the federation inspected his facility was five years ago.
The center conducts basic lab tests and as such is subject to tests of its laboratory equipment through the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments, Harish said. Most labs doing any testing involving humans in the country are regulated under these requirements, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
If a complication requires hospitalization, Harish said it is up to the center to report the complication to the hospital. Such complications are rare, he said.
Harish, who has operated the center since 1979, said he conducts abortions only two days a week. The Women's Health Center does most of the procedures, he said.
Coverage of such clinics has become a "hot potato" that takes attention from the real problem, Harish said.
"There should be more preventive measures for young girls not to get into this situation," he said.
"I think the Plan B ... is going to go a long way to prevent these unwanted pregnancies from happening," he said of the medication often referred to as the "morning-after pill."
A CAMC spokesperson said no one from the hospital could comment on any case involving past or present patients.
Dale Witte, another spokesperson with CAMC, was not available Monday. However, in May he said the hospital conducts abortions only in cases of medical emergency that put the mother's life at risk.
Messages left for the Women's Health Center and WV Free, a pro-choice nonprofit organization, were not returned. A representative at the center said Stephens does not come to the center every day and was not there Monday.
There are no disciplinary actions concerning Stephens on file with the state Board of Medicine, but he has been named in nine previous lawsuits. This is the first case filed since 2000, according to the Board of Medicine website.
Of the nine cases on file, two were dismissed and three were settled for $25,000 or less. An insurance company paid a combined $87,500 in 1995 in three settled cases. In 1996 Stephens settled a lawsuit for $150,000 in Logan County Circuit Court.
A $115,000 settlement in 2001 in Kanawha County is the most recent case listed. An official at the Kanawha Circuit Clerk's Office could not provide details about the case because it was sealed.
Knittle said that number of lawsuits is a little above average, but he noted that the country saw a flurry of malpractice lawsuits filed in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Gravely's case has been referred to Kanawha Circuit Judge Paul Zaikaib. A date for a hearing has not been set, and Stephens and the clinic have not filed an official response to the lawsuit with the circuit clerk's office, said an employee in the office.
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