A woman who claimed in a lawsuit 13 years ago that the Republican Senate candidate here, a family physician, sterilized her without her consent came forward Thursday to stand by her story, throwing one of the most competitive Senate races in the country into further turmoil.
Her voice shaking at times, Angela Plummer said that while Tom Coburn saved her life during a 1990 surgery to remove a fallopian tube in which a fetus had lodged, she was "stunned" to learn that he had also removed her remaining good tube.
"Dr. Tom Coburn sterilized me without my consent -- verbal or written -- and I know he's stating that he got oral consent. That is not true," Plummer said at a news conference. "I'm not up here to smear him. I'm up here because I wanted to have more children, and he took that away from me."
Coburn is embroiled in a tight race with Rep. Brad Carson (D), and the conservative Muskogee doctor has accused Democrats of leaking the story to "trash" his character. Plummer said Thursday that she had not spoken to anyone with partisan interests but came forward after she had read the initial article about the sterilization on Salon.com earlier in the week.
The race is considered one the most critical in the country as both parties fight for control of the U.S. Senate. A spokesman for Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said Thursday that the senator was scheduled to visit Oklahoma to campaign for Coburn on Friday. Vice President Cheney is due here next week on Coburn's behalf. The story has dominated the local news this week, with national Democrats jumping into the fray. Polls show the race is a dead heat.
Plummer's lawsuit was dismissed and reinstated in a statute-of-limitations squabble but never went to trial.
Coburn and Plummer, then 20, agree that she contacted the doctor with an ectopic pregnancy -- when a fetus lodges in a fallopian tube. Both also agree that by the time he operated, she was bleeding to death.
On Wednesday, Coburn said that he removed the other tube because the patient had asked him to do so several times previously and because her mother had also requested that it be done that night. (Plummer confirmed that her mother had done so, in an interview with the Tulsa World.) Coburn's campaign released a statement Thursday from a nurse who stated that Plummer had "begged" him to remove the other tube.
Plummer, now 34 and the mother of two children born before her troubled pregnancy, said that she did not learn what he had done until weeks later when she went for a checkup. "[We] went into a room by ourselves. He said, 'By the way, I tied your tubes. But do not tell anyone, because I will get in trouble.' "