2 Women Sue Abortion Clinic, Say Consent Was Uninformed

Article excerpt

TWO WOMEN HAVE sued an abortion clinic for malpractice, battery and wrongful death, claiming they were medicated and given misleading information before they consented to abortions.

Legal experts say the lawsuit could indicate a new tactic by abortion opponents: using tort law instead of legislation to make it tougher for abortion providers to do business.

The administrator of the Women's Community Health Center of Springfield denied the allegations, blaming the lawsuit on regrets fostered by a con servative, Christian community.

"You get patients that I'm sure, because it's the Bible Belt, have a guilt thing afterwards," Jeannie Burger said last week in a telephone interview from the clinic's corporate office in Miami, Fla.

The lawsuit was filed recently in Greene County Circuit Court on behalf of two women who had abortions in the summer of 1994. It was brought by R. Austin Morse, a lawyer from Independence, with legal and financial support from The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit group in Virginia that specializes in defense of religious liberties.

Morse is seeking to make the lawsuit a class action to involve about 6,000 women who may have had procedures at the clinic in the past six years, he said. It seeks unspecified damages.

One of the plaintiffs had a partial abortion, when the material was not completely removed and required hospital assistance, both her attorney and the clinic said. The other had had multiple abortions and did not return for a three-week checkup after the procedure in question, Burger said.

One woman refused to be interviewed by The Associated Press on the advice of Morse. The other did not return a call for comment.

Morse denied the lawsuit was an attack on abortion.

"This is an attack on assembly-line abortion procedures that fail to generate valid, informed consent and instead manipulate young women into abortions and deceive young women into abortions and drug young women into abortions," Morse said.

Yet, law experts say the petition merits watching.

"One might suspect this litigation could become part of a harassment campaign, but it doesn't have to be," said Laurence Tribe, a law professor at Harvard University.

"A woman's right to have an abortion doesn't automatically eliminate lawsuits of this kind - causes of action for battery or malpractice. Part of the right a woman has is a right to be meaningfully informed, not to be deceived by a professional."

The lawsuit claims that before the women made a final decision to have an abortion, they were given three medications, one "an anti-anxiety agent and sedative-hypnotic which . . . takes effect in 15 minutes. …