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Woman sues Charleston clinic over abortion procedure

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By ALANNA AUTLER

aautler@wowktv.com

When Itai Gravely walked out of the Women's Health Center of West Virginia in Charleston, the head of a fetus was still inside her uterus, according to a lawsuit filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court on June 7.

"They left Itai's baby to decompose inside her and they never followed up with her," said Jeremiah Dys, Gravely's attorney, who is also the president of the pro-life group Family Policy Council of West Virginia.

The organization filed the suit on behalf of Gravely.

The lawsuit claims that Gravely, 26, of Charleston, went to the clinic in April 2012 to undergo an abortion procedure.

Dr. Rodney Stephens, who is a licensed physician at the clinic, presided over Gravely's procedure.

According to court documents, Stephens gave a sedative to Gravely but during the procedure, Gravely asked to "stop" the abortion because of extreme pain. The lawsuit alleges that Stephens ignored Gravely's request and physically restrained her with the help of clinic assistants.

The lawsuit then states that Gravely, still in pain the next day, called an ambulance and was rushed to CAMC Women's and Children's Hospital in Charleston. The ultrasound performed by CAMC medical staff showed that Gravely was thirteen weeks pregnant. The staff then removed remainders of the fetus or "products of conception" from Gravely's uterus.

In a deposition, Dr. Byron Calhoun reviewed Gravely's condition after the two procedures she underwent in April 2012. He concluded that Stephens gave Gravely "insufficient anesthetic" and caused Gravely "severe pain, emotional trauma, repeated surgery, and increased future health risks."

Calhoun is a professor and vice chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at West Virginia University-Charleston.

In May 2012, Calhoun testified in front of the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee during the consideration of H.R. 3803, or the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

The bill would outlaw abortion beginning at 20 weeks, except when the procedure could possibly save the mother's life.

Calhoun argued that he never found it necessary to "terminate a pregnancy to save the life of a mother for a fetal anomaly."

The proposal later died in the House.

Under West Virginia state law, abortions are legal until week 24 of pregnancy. Most clinics prefer to perform procedures during the first trimester for safety reasons, according to Dr. Jessica Bartley, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology at CAMC Women's and Children's Hospital.

Morals aside, all providers are expected to inform women of the risks and alternatives associated with abortion, according to Bartley.

Under the state's "Women's Right to Know Act," providers need to read a script to women at least 24 hours before the scheduled abortion.

This information, available on the DHHR website, lists the medical risks of abortions, describes the procedure, and explains possible consequences.

Gravely's attorney claims Stephens and the clinic violated her agreement because he caused her extreme pain and failed to remove all of her uterus during the abortion.

"She was easily convinced by them over the phone and then again in person to go ahead with the abortion procedure," Dys said.

An employee said the director of the Women's Health Clinic would not comment on the issue or the clinic's general safety practices.