An 18-year-old woman testified yesterday that the Northern Virginia physician accused of performing an illegal abortion allowed her to deliver the dead fetus in a motel room without warning her of how traumatic the experience could be.
"I knew it would hurt, [but] I never knew something like this" would happen, she said, sobbing as she described to Judge F. Bruce Bach in Fairfax Circuit Court her delivery of a dead, 22-week-old male fetus.
The high school senior, speaking in a soft voice, gave mostly one-word answers to lawyers' questions. But at one point she said emotionally: "I didn't know what was going to happen to me. I think that's pretty bad."
She testified that after the defendant, Dr. Chris Simopoulos, had injected her with a salt solution at his women's clinic in Falls Church, he assured her it was safe for her to go to the motel. The doctor did not tell her she would deliver the fetus there, she said.
"What I thought it was going to be, it wasn't," she said. "I think they could have explained it to me."
Wiping tears from her eyes, the young woman said she had expected the abortion to be "just like a miscarriage," but it was not.
When defense lawyer Roy Lucas asked her why she left the fetus in wastebasket at the motel, she replied: "I did not know what to do with it. I was scared. I was hurt, and I just wanted to go home."
Simopoulos, 42, who has offices in Woodbridge and Falls Church, is charged with violating a Virginia law that requires performing second-trimester abortions -- those done after the 13th week of pregnancy -- in a hospital.
The defense says Simopoulos and an assistant told the young woman to go to Fairfax Hospital when her labor pains began, and that a printed information sheet given her by Simopoulos' office contained the same instructions.
The woman denied that Simopoulos or his assistant told her to go to the hospital. She acknowledged reading the printed instructions but said she told the doctor she was going to a motel.
One defense argument is that Simopoulos was unaware of the mandatory hospital requirement for third-trimester abortions. Defense lawyers also contend that injection of the salt solution fails to constitute an abortion, which the defense argues occurs only upon the actual delivery of the fetus.
Lucas, a prominent pro-abortion lawyer who participated in the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case that limited the powers of states to restrict abortions, argued that Simopoulos cannot be held responsible for the woman's decision to go to the motel.
"There is no reason for Dr. Simopoulos to tell the patient to go abort in a motel," Lucas argued.
The woman said she paid for the $475 abortion with a $500 cash advance she obtained through her Visa credit card.
She said her boyfriend, who accompanied her to the doctor's office, visited her at the Springfield motel, but he was not there on the morning of Nov. 12 when she delivered the dead fetus. She said she ate peanut butter sandwiches and smoked cigarettes during the wait.
Simopoulos listened closely to the woman's testimony. When a reporter asked for his reaction to her testimony, the doctor replied that he "felt betrayed" by a former patient. He could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, if convicted of the felony charge.
The prosecution rested its case yesterday, and the defense will begin its case today.
Judge Bach rejected defense claims that the Virginia abortion statute is unconstitutional.