CHARLESTON - State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Monday his office has sent letters to two state clinics that provide elective abortions and soon will begin assessing abortion regulation in the state.
The moves are in response to a lawsuit filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court earlier this month.
In her June 7 complaint, plaintiff Itai Gravely sued Women’s Health Center of West Virginia Inc. and Dr. Rodney Lee Stephens for an allegedly botched abortion.
Among Gravely’s claims: she was improperly anesthetized, her requests to stop the procedure were ignored, the baby’s skull was left in her uterus and the gestational age of the unborn baby was miscalculated.
It was later determined by physicians at a local hospital -- after removing and evaluating the unborn baby’s head -- that it was more than 13 weeks, instead of nine or 11 weeks, as she was told by the clinic.
“Recent events raise significant questions about how abortion clinics are regulated in the Mountain State,” Morrisey explained, pointing to Gravely’s suit.
“The merits of that lawsuit must still be resolved in court, but it does raises serious questions about how such clinics in West Virginia are inspected and reviewed to ensure patients are safe. These questions are particularly important in light of the conviction last month of Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Pennsylvania for his ‘house of horrors’ abortion clinic.”
Morrisey on Monday pointed to a recent Charleston Daily Mail story, in which a state Department of Health and Human Resources spokeswoman said no state agency “specifically inspects” clinics or facilities that perform abortions.
“The state regulates doctors, nurses, dentists, accountants, architects, chiropractors, social workers, real estate appraisers, massage therapists, acupuncturists, barbers and cosmetologists. But abortion clinics in West Virginia are neither licensed nor regulated by the State,” the attorney general said.
“Regardless of one’s position on abortion, the state needs to evaluate this basic fact.”
Morrisey’s letters ask the clinics to provide answers to questions related to: how often the clinics are inspected; their understanding of state abortion laws and regulations; whether the clinics have compliance plans outlining best practices to comply with relevant federal, state and local laws; and whether the clinics have a relationship with the National Abortion Federation, which self-regulates member abortion clinics.
According to the letters, which also seek specifics about the elective abortion procedures performed, the clinics must provide the Attorney General’s Office with written answers by July 1.
Morrisey said the clinics’ answers will help him and his staff better evaluate the need for regulation.
“We look forward to the clinics’ cooperation and assistance in this important endeavor,” he said.
Gravely's lawsuit claims she was 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.