Jessica M. Karmasek Jun. 17, 2013, 5:00pm

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) -- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Monday his office has sent letters to two state clinics that provide elective abortions, and soon will begin assessing abortion regulation in the state.

The moves are in response to a lawsuit filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court earlier this month.

In her June 7 complaint, plaintiff Itai Gravely sued Women's Health Center of West Virginia Inc. and Dr. Rodney Lee Stephens for an allegedly botched abortion.

Among Gravely's claims: she was improperly anesthetized, her requests to stop the procedure were ignored, the baby's skull was left in her uterus and the gestational age of the unborn baby was miscalculated.

It was later determined by physicians at a local hospital -- after removing and evaluating the unborn baby's head -- that it was more than 13 weeks, instead of nine or 11 weeks, as she was told by the clinic.

"Recent events raise significant questions about how abortion clinics are regulated in the Mountain State," Morrisey explained, pointing to Gravely's suit.

"The merits of that lawsuit must still be resolved in court, but it does raises serious questions about how such clinics in West Virginia are inspected and reviewed to ensure patients are safe. These questions are particularly important in light of the conviction last month of Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Pennsylvania for his 'house of horrors' abortion clinic."

Morrisey on Monday pointed to a recent Charleston Daily Mail story, in which a state Department of Health and Human Resources spokeswoman said no state agency "specifically inspects" clinics or facilities that perform abortions.

"The state regulates doctors, nurses, dentists, accountants, architects, chiropractors, social workers, real estate appraisers, massage therapists, acupuncturists, barbers and cosmetologists. But abortion clinics in West Virginia are neither licensed nor regulated by the State," the attorney general said.

"Regardless of one's position on abortion, the state needs to evaluate this basic fact."

Morrisey's letters ask the clinics to provide answers to questions related to: how often the clinics are inspected; their understanding of state abortion laws and regulations; whether the clinics have compliance plans outlining best practices to comply with relevant federal, state and local laws; and whether the clinics have a relationship with the National Abortion Federation, which self-regulates member abortion clinics.

According to the letters, which also seek specifics about the elective abortion procedures performed, the clinics must provide the Attorney General's Office with written answers by July 1.

Morrisey said the clinics' answers will help him and his staff better evaluate the need for regulation.

"We look forward to the clinics' cooperation and assistance in this important endeavor," he said.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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