Falls Church gynecologist-obstetrician Dr. Chris Simopoulos said yesterday he sees victory in the Supreme Court decision upholding his conviction for performing an illegal abortion on an unwed 17-year-old Woodbridge girl in 1979.
"I'm delighted the Supreme Court really, really has decided for women's rights," said the 44-year-old physician. "It's the reason I went to the Supreme Court. I didn't have to go."
Simopoulos, a Greek immigrant, was one of the few physicians in the nation to be prosecuted on an abortion charge since the Supreme Court's 1973 opinion legalizing such operations. He was convicted in 1980 in Fairfax County Circuit Court and received a two-year prison term, with all but 20 days suspended.
Simopoulos, who has already served his sentence, said yesterday's opinion is likely to expand the number of facilities in Virginia where abortions in the second three months of pregnancy may be performed and opens the possibility that they could be done at his own American Women's Clinic on West Broad Street in Falls Church.
The opinion held that such outpatient clinics, as well as hospitals, may be licensed to carry out second trimester abortions under Virginia law. Simopoulos' clinic lacked such a license at the time, but the doctor said yesterday he plans to apply for one.
"It will be a good test for the state," he said, "whether they meant what they said."
Simopoulos also criticized the "element of hypocrisy" in Supreme Court arguments by Virginia state lawyers that the state's abortion law never was meant to restrict second trimester procedures to full-service, acute-care hospitals.
"The court bought that hook, line and sinker," said Joanne Hustead, one of Simopoulos' lawyers. She said the state defined "hospitals" to include clinics like Simopoulos' only after the case reached the high court.
David Hathcock, a spokesman for Virginia Attorney General Gerald L. Baliles, declined yesterday to reply to the hypocrisy charge. "The court held that Virginia's law is reasonable and constitutional," Hathcock said. "It's been argued and decided. It doesn't serve Virginia's interests to argue with Dr. Simopoulos."
Simopoulos, who also owns a clinic in Woodbridge, was barred by Virginia medical authorities from performing abortions for two years as a condition of keeping his medical license. His separate appeal of that restriction was refused by the Supreme Court last fall.
Asked if he will resume his abortion practice when the state-imposed sanction expires next month, Simopoulos said: "Of course." He said other physicians have handled first trimester abortion cases at his clinic in the meantime.
"I have been partially wounded" by the conviction and the ensuing court battles, Simopoulos added yesterday. "But wounds, as we say in medicine, heal."