CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A Charleston woman is alleging that a doctor at a local clinic went through with an abortion after she asked him to stop and that parts of the fetus remained in her uterus after the procedure.
Her medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor and the Women's Health Center of West Virginia was filed Friday with the help of two anti-abortion entities that also advocate for more regulation of the industry.
Itai Gravely, 26, alleges that Dr. Rodney Lee Stephens, a doctor at the Women's Health Center, conducted the abortion, said her attorney, Jeremiah Dys, in a Monday press conference.
Dys is president of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, an anti-abortion religious organization. Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit with goals that are similar to Dys' organization, also are representing Gravely.
The legal complaint describes Gravely's visit to the center.
Gravely reportedly went there April 19, 2012, to seek an abortion. Shortly into the procedure, the complaint says Gravely was in severe pain, "apparently related to the insertion of the curette," and told Stephens and center employees to stop.
She alleges in the complaint that Stephens refused to do so, told other center employees to restrain Gravely and proceeded.
The complaint says the center's staff knew of Gravely's "history of pain medication dependency" but did not ask about it sufficiently. Because of that, Stephens performed the abortion without using enough anesthesia to adequately sedate Gravely, she argues.
In the 24 hours following the procedure, Gravely states that she felt immense pain. She was eventually taken by ambulance to Charleston Area Medical Center's Women and Children's Hospital.
CAMC doctors allegedly found and removed a skull and other "products of conception" from Gravely's uterus.
At nine weeks a fetus might be 3/4 of an inch long, according to the Mayo Clinic website. The same website states a fetus at 12 weeks could be about 2 1/2 inches long. Gravely's pregnancy was between nine and 13 weeks, the complaint indicates.
The lawsuit alleges the center and Stephens breached the standard of care, committed medical malpractice, battery, false imprisonment and more.
Gravely is asking for compensation as a result of emotional distress, medical bills, pain and suffering and more.
Dys thinks the most Gravely could receive is $500,000.
Gravely did not attend Monday's press conference. Dys said she is in better health and is currently pregnant again.
Dys and the Alliance Defending Freedom say the circumstances of Gravely's case show more regulations are needed for clinics that perform abortions.
"The general public, as a matter of public safety, needs to know that Women's Health Center of West Virginia and the abortion industry of West Virginia is unregulated," Dys said.
"That means the state of West Virginia is not inspecting this clinic, licensing its activities, or in any way ensuring the safety of the women who enter its doors."
No local, state or federal agencies license or inspect the two West Virginia clinics that perform abortions.Regulations
Two clinics in West Virginia perform elective abortions. Both are located in Charleston, and neither is licensed or regulated by the state.
"There is no state agency that specifically inspects clinics or facilities that perform abortion," said Marsha Dadisman, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Resources, in a May email.
There is no state category for licensing abortion clinics or providers, Dadisman said then.
Within the DHHR, the Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification licenses hospitals and extended care units that work in conjunction with hospitals, she added.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said routine inspections of abortion clinics do not fall under his department's purview.
"What basically happens is, if there is an infectious disease that has a connection to a facility, then the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department does go in and inspect," Gupta said.
"We have done that in the past. Part of our job is to monitor disease control and outbreaks. So we'll go if there is any infectious disease tied to a particular facility. Other than that, there's nothing else regulatory."
While the clinics don't receive state inspections, there is a state governing body for individual physicians.