CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Statistics released Thursday by Charleston Area Medical Center and a state pro-choice organization contradict earlier claims from a local physician who said in September that he sees "weekly complications" from abortion patients.
According to a statement issued by WV Free, an advocacy organization for women's health, statistics from CAMC's Women and Children's Hospital indicate that in 2012, the hospital saw only five women with legally induced abortions in its emergency department and just two who actually had complications. The data is within range or lower than statistics reported on the national level, according to WV Free.
In a letter to Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in June, Dr. Byron Calhoun, vice chairman of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at West Virginia University Physicians of Charleston, wrote that at CAMC, "We commonly (I personally probably at least weekly) see patients at Women and Children's Hospital in our emergency room or our ultrasound center with complications from abortions at these centers in Charleston. So much for 'safe and legal.'"
Calhoun serves as national medical adviser for the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, an anti-abortion group. In his letter to Morrisey, Calhoun called the state's lack of regulations for abortion clinics "shocking." The medical staff at abortion clinics, like in other medical facilities, are overseen by licensing boards.
West Virginians for Life, an anti-abortion lobby, has been using Dr. Calhoun's allegations to advance legislation by distributing his quotes to West Virginia lawmakers, according to WV Free. Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of WV Free, said Calhoun's allegations are particularly troubling in light of the new statistics from CAMC.
"The fact that Dr. Calhoun made knowingly false statements with the intent to mislead the public and lawmakers is disturbing," Pomponio said. "His disingenuous statements are a clear political ploy to further his own radical personal agenda without thought or care for the welfare of West Virginia women and families."
WV Free also released a letter they obtained from West Virginians for Life president Wanda Franz addressed to state legislators that pushed for Abortion Opt Out legislation allowed through the Affordable Care Act. The letter included an explanation of the group's new approach to legislation:
"WVFL will use the committee process as its primary means of passing legislation. At the same time, it should be understood that we will now score those votes that either directly or indirectly hinder or prevent the passage of the Abortion Opt Out Bill. This includes the moving of the Opt-Out to the inactive calendar, as well as a vote which lays over a motion of discharge, and, of course, a vote which prevents the discharging of a committee."
Nancy Tolliver, a retired registered nurse who worked for the state Department of Health, said she believes Calhoun allowed his personal views to cloud his judgment in making the allegations.
"It was really quite alarming to think that we could have so many complications based on what Dr. Calhoun was saying," Tolliver said. "With that information, we had to check this out -- it was just so unusual."
Tolliver said Calhoun's statements were "a great concern" to healthcare and women's rights advocates statewide. In December, Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, wrote a letter to the West Virginia Board of Medicine asking it to investigate claims made by Calhoun, adding that Calhoun possibly violated the codes of medical conduct for not reporting substandard services he allegedly observed.
"The numbers indicate that physicians in this state are providing very good care, and women in this state should feel very confident that they would receive good care when they come for an abortion service," Tolliver said.
Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.