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Abortionist left head in womb, forced woman to go through with abortion: lawsuit

Ben Johnson
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CHARLESTON, WV, June 10, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – West Virginia abortionist Rodney Lee Stephens forced a 26-year-old woman to go through with an abortion she did not want and failed to properly anesthetize her, putting her through excruciating pain, according to a lawsuit filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court.

After the abortion the woman's pain only escalated until doctors discovered the abortionist had left part of the baby's body, including the skull, inside her womb.

Itai Gravely states in her lawsuit that she repeatedly told employees at the Women's Health Center of West Virginia, Inc., in Charleston, last April 19 that she wanted to keep her baby. Dr. Stephens allegedly ordered employees at the Women's Health Center to restrain her, and they held her down until he had completed the abortion.

According to her legal complaint, Stephens did not examine “or even take a moment to greet” Gravely after the abortion. Her father and cousin, who accompanied her, had to support her so she could walk.

Employees sent her out the back exit after the procedure, to keep other patients from seeing her pain, she states.

The next day, doctors at the Charleston Area Medical Center - where Dr. Stephens also practices - discovered the abortionist had left fetal remains, including her baby's skull, inside her womb. 

Dr. Byron Calhoun, who provided expert medical statements against both Dr. Stephens and Women's Health Center, said their actions “breached the standard of care by giving Ms. Gravely insufficient anesthetic, exposing her to severe pain during the course of the surgical abortion.”

He added that Stephens should have “provided the crushed remains of Ms. Gravely's unborn child to a qualified pathologist for analysis and evaluation,” instead of sending her home.

“I hope that a case like this brings to light for our leadership in the state...that this is a serious matter, and these things happen in West Virginia, too, and that we need to be alert to make sure that we're not failing to do the kinds of things we should do to protect women,” Dr. Wanda Franz, president of West Virginians for Life and former president of the National Right to Life Committee, told LifeSiteNews.com.

The lawsuit accuses Stephens of professional negligence, battery, uninformed consent, false imprisonment, exteme and outrageous conduct/emotional distress, and breach of contract.

“This is something the pro-life movement has been concerned about for 40 years, that the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton prevented us from providing the kind protections that women ought to have. Then, when we do pass some protections, we find that it's difficult to get them enforced, to make sure that there's oversight and supervision of abortion clincs,” Dr. Franz told LifeSiteNews.

“The drive to make sure that abortions are available has seemed to overwhelm the need to realize that this is a dangerous procedure, that women's lives are at stake, and of course every abortion kills a baby,” she said.

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Gravely's legal counsel hopes a judge will focus on their client's rights, not the so-called “right to abortion.”

“What Stephens and Women’s Health Center did to Itai is beyond the pale,” said Jeremiah Dys, president and general counsel of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia. “She has been exposed to extraordinary cruelty, and her life was put in jeopardy.”

“Our tax dollars should not fund abortionists who are irresponsible and only promote their own self-interest and bottom line,” said Michael J. Norton, co-counsel, who is with the Alliance Defending Freedom.

He and Franz pointed out that taxpayers finance abortion, without exception, through the state Medicaid program. According to the Guttmacher Institute, West Virginia is one of just four states that voluntarily furnishes state funds for most abortions. The others are Hawaii, New Mexico, and New York.

“West Virginiains, if they really understood how liberal our abortion situation is here in West Virginia, would really be appalled,” she said. “These are all issues that West Virginians clearly don't support.”

This is not the first forced, botched abortion case ADF has handled.

The firm filed a similar case in February against Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains on behalf of 40-year-old Ayanna Byer, who says she changed her mind about the abortion after its Colorado Springs office could not provide her with intravenous anesthesia. The abortionist proceeded with the abortion, and she also ended up hospitalized after the doctor left tissue behind.

In another widely reported incident, multiple patients accused Michigan abortionist Abraham Alberto Hodari of forcing them to go through with abortions after they told him to quit.

In 2008, Caitlin Bruce said, at the earliest stage of the procedure, "I just told him stop please. I'm really nervous, and I don't want to do this anymore."

Instead, he ordered his employees to hold the black woman down while he aborted her baby.

Hodari admitted to continuing the termination over her objection but said it was “too late” to stop.

However, after Bruce spoke up another woman, Jennifer McCoy, came forward with a lawsuit stating that Hodari performed a forced abortion on her 20 years earlier. When she was just 16, she believed Hodari was administering a prenatal check-up for a baby she wanted to keep. Instead, he forced her to abort, according to the allegation.

Hodari has since retired.

Franz believes indifference to women's suffering, let alone their wishes, grows out of their disregard for all life.

Dr. Kermit “Gosnell was the perfect example of that,” she said. “The mother's life begins to be of less value to you, because you've already taken that step of denying life to an innocent child.”

Updated 06/11/13 to clarify that, according to the suit, while Dr. Stephens did attempt to anaesthetize Gravely, he failed to ascertain that she had a history of painkiller use which required a higher dosage of anesthesia. When Gravely told Stephens that she was in excruciating pain, he did not stop the procedure as she requested. 

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