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WVU doctor who criticized abortion responds to delegate's complaint against him

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Charleston gynecologist who was criticized by a member of the House of Delegates for comments he made about abortion calls her complaints, "a poorly executed political stunt."

Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, wrote a letter to the West Virginia Board of Medicine last week 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 is also 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. 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.

In a letter sent to media outlets on Monday, Calhoun said Guthrie is inaccurate in her statements and is not in a position to comment on the medical profession.

"Your endorsement by Planned Parenthood in your most recent election may be to blame," Calhoun wrote. "If so, you certainly would not be the first politician that allowed her desire to please special interest groups to override basic competency and accuracy."

Calhoun wrote that he never referred to abortion complications as "botched abortions," as Guthrie had claimed. Calhoun said he frequently treats women at the emergency room for abortion complications, which range from minor bleeding to more serious issues.

Morrisey asked Calhoun to submit his initial letter, he said, which primarily addressed the absence of regulation of abortion clinics and abortion providers in the state.

"This lack of regulation allows abortion providers to abandon women with complications from their abortions to fend for themselves," Calhoun wrote. "This abandonment would constitute as gross malpractice for any other medical provider in any other field of medicine. Under current state regulations, however, this is standard procedure."

Calhoun said he's reported complications he's observed to WVU's administrative chain of command, not the State Board of Medicine. Little to nothing has been done about his concerns, he said, because of the state's lack of abortion regulation.

Calhoun said Guthrie would be better off enacting legislation to create more abortion regulations. He referenced a Philadelphia doctor, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole in May for the murder of a baby born alive in a botched abortion.

"Might I suggest that ill-advised attacks on physicians may not be the best way to champion women's health," Calhoun wrote. "Instead, perhaps you should initiate legislation to protect West Virginia women from sub-standard care and abandonment by abortion providers, and from the Dr. Gosnell's of the world."

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


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