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Abortion provider responds to lawsuit

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A Charleston abortion provider did nothing wrong when it terminated a woman's pregnancy in April 2012 and her lawsuit should be dismissed, attorneys for the clinic said in a response filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court Monday.

Tamela White and Megan Farrell, of Huntington law firm Farrell, White & Legg, are representing Dr. Rodney Lee Stephens and the Women's Health Center in a lawsuit brought by Itai Gravely.

Gravely, 26, of Charleston, alleges Stephens forced her to proceed with an abortion at the West Side clinic that did not go as planned, causing a trip to a hospital and a great deal of pain and suffering.

"There was no unwanted or inappropriate touching. (Gravely) had a medical procedure to which she provided informed consent, voluntarily and of her free will," the defense states in its response.

"There was no imprisonment; (Gravely) was positioned for a medical procedure which is not imprisonment."

Gravely's team of attorneys, all of whom are affiliated with religious pro-life organizations, filed suit against Stephens and the clinic on June 7.

The clinic is one of two medical facilities in the state that perform elective abortions. Both are located in Charleston.

Her complaint claims she came to the clinic for an abortion but that she wasn't given enough medication ahead of the procedure because the center and Stephens didn't know enough about her history with "use and/or abuse" of pain medication.

Stephens refused to stop the procedure when Gravely told him to and staff members restrained her while he finished the procedure, according to her complaint. She says she felt enough pain after the procedure to eventually go to Charleston Area Medical Center.

At the hospital, Gravely says the doctors removed more materials from her uterus, including a skull.

Stephens and the center flatly deny several of the allegations. They agree Gravely came to the center and received an abortion, but deny she was improperly medicated or that she ever told them to stop.

"It is admitted that Itai 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," the response states.

Stephens and the center also state they are "of information and belief" that CAMC removed "additional products of conception." But Gravely was told that "retained fragments and tissue" could remain after the abortion, which could lead to the need for further medical attention.

If any "products of conception" remained in Gravely, it wasn't because Stephens or the center didn't provide the proper care, according to the response.

There is also dispute about how far along Gravely was in the pregnancy.

In her lawsuit, it states Stephens told her she was about nine weeks pregnant, but the doctors at CAMC said she was more than 13 weeks pregnant.

Stephens and the center state an ultrasound at the center showed Gravely was 9 weeks and three days pregnant, according to the response.

At nine weeks a fetus is about 3/4 of an inch long, according to the Mayo Clinic website. At 12 weeks a fetus is about 2 1/2 inches along, according to the same website.

Gravely's complaint alleges medical negligence, battery, uninformed consent, false imprisonment, extreme and outrageous conduct leading to emotional distress and breach of contract. She's asking for money.

Jeremiah Dys - one of Gravely's attorneys and the head of the conservative Family Policy Council of West Virginia - told the Daily Mail when the lawsuit was filed the most Gravely could receive is $500,000.

Stephens and the center present 21 different potential arguments in their defense.

The case is in the discovery stage, where both sides ask for documentation. Attorneys for Stephens and the center request a jury trial and state they'll be ready for a trial by January 2015.

Attorneys for the defendants did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. Attempts to reach Dys were unsuccessful.

The state does not regularly inspect or regulate many health clinics, including elective abortion clinics. Dys has called for an investigation, and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey recently sent letters to both Charleston clinics requesting information about the services they offer.

Both offered brief responses, saying little more than they follow the law. Pro-choice groups in West Virginia say Morrisey's letters are political in nature and represent an attempt to hurt the clinics.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher @dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.

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