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Suit seeks compensation for botched abortion

Child-rearing costs also being sought

A Boston woman has filed a lawsuit alleging that a doctor at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts bungled her abortion in April 2004 and that she had no idea she was still pregnant until about six weeks before her daughter was born in December.

Jennifer Raper, 45, of Charlestown, wants Planned Parenthood, the doctor who performed the abortion at the Boston clinic, and another physician who allegedly failed to detect her pregnancy in July 2004 to pay damages, including the cost of rearing Raper's 2-year-old daughter.

Both Raper and her lawyer, Barry C. Reed Jr., declined to comment yesterday on the so-called wrongful birth suit. The complaint was filed Thursday in Suffolk Superior Court and still must be screened by a special panel before it can proceed to trial.

A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman said the organization does not comment on litigation.

Raper said in the three-page medical malpractice suit that she found out she was pregnant in March 2004 and decided to have an abortion for financial reasons.

Dr. Allison Bryant, a physician working for Planned Parenthood at the time, performed the procedure on April 9, 2004, but it "was not done properly, causing the plaintiff to remain pregnant," the complaint said. Bryant then told Raper to see her primary care physician.

On July 16, Raper went to Dr. Benjamin Eleonu of Boston Medical Center. He performed a pelvic exam and found her uterus was normal, the complaint said, even though Raper was 20 weeks pregnant.

It was only when Raper went to the New England Medical Center emergency room for treatment of pelvic pain on Sept. 26 that she discovered she was still pregnant, the suit said. She gave birth Dec. 7 at the medical center.

Raper, whose complaint contained few medical details, alleges that Planned Parenthood and Bryant were negligent for failing to end her pregnancy and that Eleonu was negligent for failing to see she was still pregnant.

Neither doctor returned requests for comment.

Wrongful birth suits are not unheard of in Massachusetts, although the circumstances vary.

More than 20 years ago, the medical malpractice lawyer Andrew C. Meyer Jr. said, he represented a woman who won an award of several hundred thousands dollars after she gave birth to her 11th child because a doctor had botched a procedure to sterilize her through tubal ligation.

In 1997, Deborah Gaines sued Preterm Health Services in Brookline, which she had fled three years earlier when John Salvi III went on a murderous rampage there . Gaines said she was too traumatized to go back for the abortion and accused the clinic of providing inadequate security. She gave birth to her fourth child seven months later. She sought damages for "extraordinary care" for a child who was learning-disabled and hyperactive. The case was settled.

Although the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 1990 that parents can sue physicians for child-rearing expenses, it limited the claims to cases in which children require extraordinary expenses because of medical problems, Meyer said.

Raper's suit mentions no medical problems involving her daughter.

As with all medical malpractice suits in Massachusetts, Raper's complaint will have to be screened by a tribunal consisting of a Superior Court judge, a lawyer, and a doctor to determine whether it has enough merit to go to trial.

Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com.

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