CHARLESTON - A Charleston woman is suing Women's Health Center of West Virginia Inc. for an allegedly botched abortion.
Dr. Rodney Lee Stephens was also named as a defendant in the suit.
In early April 2012, Itai Gravely learned she was pregnant and contacted Women's Health Center to explore her options, according to a complaint filed June 7 in Kanawha Circuit Court.
Gravely claims on April 19, 2012, she arrived at the abortion clinic with her father and her cousin and was registered by the defendants' agents or employees. She was asked to provide proof of her ability to pay for services to be rendered, she says.
Following performance of an ultrasound examination, the defendants' employees or agents informed Gravely she was approximately 11 weeks pregnant and she was persuaded to proceed with an abortion. She says she was given an oral sedative and instructed to return to a procedure room, where she was informed that a second ultrasound had been performed that confirmed the presence of a baby in her uterus.
Gravely claims she was then advised by the defendants that Stephens would perform a dilation and curettage surgical abortion by means of suction, which would completely and entirely remove all parts of the unborn child from her uterus.
As Gravely understood it, this dilation and curettage surgical abortion on her consisted of the use of a sharp knife (or curette) to scrape her uterine wall so as to dislodge the unborn baby and then, by means of a vacuum system, remove by suction all parts of the unborn child, placenta and other uterine contents necessary for continuing pregnancy, according to the suit.
Gravely claims she was then given twilight sedation intravenously and was prepped for the abortion surgery, but at no time while under the treatment of the defendants did she ever lose consciousness.
Once the intravenous sedation had been administered to Gravely, Stephens spent a few moments examining her, the complaint says. Following the brief examination, he informed Gravely she was, in his opinion, merely nine weeks pregnant and began to surgically remove the unborn baby from Gravely's uterus by the use of the suction dilation and curettage method, according to the suit.
Gravely claims contrary to preferred medical standards for a midterm pregnancy, Stephens did not use ultrasound technology to guide him in the surgical dilation and curettage by suction removal of the unborn baby.
As the procedure began, but before any action had been taken by Stephens to abort the unborn baby from Gravely's uterus, Gravely says she informed Stephens and the agents or employees of the abortion clinic who were assisting him that she was experiencing severe pain, apparently related to the insertion of the curette in her uterus, as well as the insufficient provision by the defendants and their agents of fully anesthetizing her. It was known to the defendants and their agents that she had a history of pain medication dependency, according to the suit.
Gravely claims she "immediately and unequivocally instructed Defendant Stephens and the agents or employees of the Defendant Abortion Clinic who were assisting him with the abortion to stop the abortion procedure at that moment."
Upon information and belief, neither Stephens nor agents or employees of the clinic made inquiry into Gravely's medical history so as to sufficiently identify her use and/or abuse of pain medication and, as a result, Stephens and the clinic exposed her to a surgical abortion without anesthesia sufficient to protect her health and well-being, according to the suit.
Gravely claims rather than provide the promised and agreed upon procedure, the clinic and Stephens subjected her to an invasive surgery without adequate pain management or control, which resulted in "near tortuous pain to Plaintiff that no reasonable person should be expected to bear, let alone lend her consent."
Notwithstanding Gravely's repeated demands to stop the abortion procedure, Stephens and the agents or employees of the clinic refused to abide by her demands to stop the surgical abortion procedure and instead, Stephens directed the clinic's agents or employees to physically restrain Gravely so that the abortion procedure would be completed, according to the suit.
Gravely claims once in the recovery room, she continued to complain of severe pain in her lower abdomen area, but the defendants disregarding her complaints and assured her that "'everything was fine,' when, in fact, it was not."
Rather than administer pain medication, the clinic offered her crackers and water, according to the suit.
Gravely claims Stephens examined the remains, fluid and tissue that had been suctioned from her uterus and wrongly concluded that all parts of the unborn child had been removed when, in fact, all parts of the unborn child had not been removed from her uterus.
The defendants made no proper attempt to reassemble the now crushed fetal remains or to use ultrasound technology to view Gravely's post-surgical uterus so as to determine that all parts of the unborn child had been removed or to provide the removed parts of Gravely's unborn baby and uterine contents to a qualified pathologist for evaluation and/or analysis or to otherwise use medically-necessary and medically-appropriate methods and means to verify that all parts of the unborn child had been entirely removed, according to the suit.
Gravely claims she was still in severe pain upon leaving the clinic and needed the support of her father and cousin to make it to the car. On April 20, 2012, she called the clinic because she was still experiencing severe pain and was also experiencing abnormally heavy bleeding, she says.
The clinic said she could return if she wished, but when she informed them she could not afford the gasoline and was in too much pain for public transportation, the clinic made no offer to assist her with transportation or otherwise care for her in her distress, the suit claims.
Later that day, Gravely called for an ambulance and was transported to Charleston Area Medical Center-Women's and Children's Hospital, where an ultrasound was done and it was determined that the source of her pain was "products of conception," meaning parts of the unborn child resulting from the abortion which had not been completely removed from her uterus, according to the suit.
Gravely claims the baby's skull was left in her uterus, which, when measured, indicated that the gestational age of the unborn baby was more than 13 weeks, instead of nine weeks or 11 weeks, as she had previously been informed at the clinic.
The defendants' failure to exercise due care was a proximate cause of Gravely's injuries and damages, according to the suit.
Gravely claims as a result of the defendants' negligence, she incurred and will continue to incur medical, therapeutic, hospital, physician expenses and other damages.
As a result of the defendants' extreme and outrageous conduct, Gravely incurred expenses and damages, according to the suit.
Gravely is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. She is being represented by Jeremiah G. Dys, Richard E. Holtzapfel, Michael J. Norton and Catherine Glenn Foster of Family Policy Council of West Virginia.
The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib Jr.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 13-C-1104