CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A woman represented by an evangelical Christian group has filed a malpractice lawsuit against a Charleston doctor, alleging he botched her abortion.
The conservative Family Policy Council of West Virginia announced the lawsuit against Dr. Rodney Lee Stephens during a Monday press conference held across the street from the health clinic where Itai Gravely underwent an abortion last year.
Gravely, 26, alleges that she changed her mind about the abortion, but was physically restrained and forced to have the procedure at Women's Health Center, according to the lawsuit filed last Friday in Kanawha Circuit Court. Gravely was later taken to a hospital where doctors discovered the fetus' head had been left in her uterus, the suit alleges.
Women's Health Center administrators did not respond to a request for comment. A woman who answered the phone at the clinic also declined to give the name of the facility's lawyer.
Stephens has settled seven medical malpractice cases since 1990, according to the West Virginia Board of Medicine's website. Two additional lawsuits against Stephens were dismissed. The board has never disciplined Stephens. He could not be reached for comment Monday.
The Family Policy Council is being assisted on the lawsuit by the Alliance for Defending Freedom, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based conservative Christian group that previously filed a lawsuit against an abortion doctor in Colorado.
"A woman's life and health is more important than an abortionist's bottom line," said Jeremiah Dys, lead lawyer on the case and president of the Family Policy Council. "What Stephens and Women's Health Center did to Itai is beyond the pale. She has been exposed to extraordinary cruelty, and her life was put in jeopardy."
Dys, whose group opposes abortion, said Gravely contacted the Family Policy Council about the alleged botched procedure. She did not attend Monday's press conference.
Casey Mattox, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, said clinics such as Women's Health Center should be inspected, licensed and regulated.
"Abortionists should be held to the same health and safety standards as all other medical facilities," Mattox said during Monday's press conference. "It is not too much to expect that abortionists meet basic standards to protect women's health."
Dys said his group has asked Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and state lawmakers to establish abortion clinic regulations.