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Hospital Records Show Abortions Safe, Contradict Doctor’s Claims


Monday, February 17, 2014   

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Hospital statistics directly contradict a Charleston doctor's claims that abortions often cause health problems for West Virginia women. Last summer, obstetrician Dr. Byron Calhoun stated that he sees complications from abortions at the hospital at least weekly. However, according to the Charleston Area Medical Center Women and Children's Hospital (CAMC), the facility treated only two women for abortion complications in all of 2012, including walk-ins to the emergency room.

Pat Holmes White is a former state lawmaker and one of the women's health professionals who wrote to CAMC to get the data. White said Calhoun was misrepresenting the work of the doctors providing the abortions.

"If he is blatantly lying to the public, he can have his personal position, but it should not undermine - particularly - health professionals," White said.

Registered nurse Nancy Tolliver has worked on women's reproductive health issues for years, and she also signed the letter to CAMC. She said one reason Calhoun's charges received so much attention is that, if true, they would have been a sign of something seriously wrong. However, she said, CAMC's numbers show that abortion there is safe. In fact, she pointed out, the hospital treated more than 100 times as many women for complications from giving birth, which is entirely normal.

"West Virginia women should feel really confident that they get good care when they receive an abortion service, because there are very few complications showing up in one of the largest hospitals in our state," Tolliver said.

Neither Calhoun nor CAMC have taken questions from reporters about the issue.

When asked why the high numbers of complications were not showing up in state board of medicine records, Calhoun released an open letter saying he did not report the complications to the board but to his superiors at the hospital. White said CAMC's numbers suggest that was not the case, which could mean trouble for Calhoun.

"If he's reporting one thing to the press and another thing to the hospital, there's something wrong in that, there's just something fishy about it, and he should be sanctioned for it," White said.

Calhoun's claim had been cited by abortion opponents as a basis for more regulation of the clinics, but the legislature now seems unlikely to follow that course.

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