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Delegate files complaint against WVU physician for abortion comments

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A member of the House of Delegates has filed a complaint with the West Virginia Board of Medicine against a Charleston gynecologist who claimed to see patients complaining of "botched abortions" on a weekly basis.

Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, wrote a letter to the board Thursday asking it to investigate claims made by Dr. Byron Calhoun, vice chairman of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at West Virginia University Physicians of Charleston.

Calhoun, who also is the national medical adviser for an anti-abortion group, wrote a letter to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in June outlining his concerns about the state's abortion clinics.

The Gazette-Mail obtained the letter via a public-records request in September.

In the letter, Calhoun claimed he commonly treats patients at Women and Children's Hospital for abortion complications and argued that tattoo parlors and veterinary hospitals are better regulated than abortion clinics.

Guthrie wrote in her complaint that Calhoun possibly violated the codes of medical conduct for not reporting substandard services he allegedly observed.

"The American Medical Association Code of Ethics specifies an ethical obligation of a physician to report impaired, incompetent, and/or unethical colleagues in accordance with the legal requirements in each state," she wrote.

She requested that the board take action against Calhoun if he made knowingly false statements.

Calhoun's comments are at the center of a lawsuit filed in June on behalf of a Charleston woman claiming she received a botched abortion. Calhoun, national medical adviser for the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, an anti-abortion group, gave an expert statement in the case of Itai Gravely vs. Dr. Rodney Stephens.

In the lawsuit, Gravely alleges that Stephens, a physician at Women's Health Center of West Virginia, botched her abortion and left part of a fetus in her uterus.

Calhoun reviewed Gravely's case and wrote a screening certificate of merit affirming that Gravely's procedure had been botched. Under state law, screening certificates of merit are required to be filed in malpractice cases by a health-care provider who is an expert in the particular field of medicine associated with the case.

However, the state Board of Medicine has not received any reports about hospital visits relating to abortion injuries, Guthrie wrote.

A receptionist who answered the phone at Calhoun's office Friday said he did not wish to comment on the complaint.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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