June 4, 2010 -- A young Michigan woman who changed her mind about having an abortion while on the doctor's table has accused her doctor of terminating her pregnancy even after she pleaded with him to stop.
A lawsuit filed by 20-year-old Caitlin Bruce against Dr. Abraham Hodari is now winding its way through the Genesee County court system, but the case has raised questions about when an abortion can be stopped.
Bruce said she walked into Hodari's Feminine Health Care Clinic in Flint, Mich., in April 2008, intending to have an abortion. She claims in an interview with ABCNews.com she changed her mind, but was pinned down, her mouth covered to muffle her screams, while Hodari forcibly terminated her pregnancy.
"This is a question about choice. Who makes the decision here? He told her she could back out any time," Bruce's attorney Tom Pabst said. "Who does he think he is?"
Hodari's lawyer called the lawsuit "baseless" and said Bruce changed her mind too late and that the doctor had no choice but to finish what he started.
"He did nothing improper," Hodari's attorney Steve Weiss said.
In 2008, Bruce was 18, pregnant by her much-older boyfriend, and unemployed. She had dropped out of high school in 11th grade and was just starting to build a life for herself. Her father, she said, had convinced her that the best thing for her would be to terminate the pregnancy.
"He just thought I was too young and I hadn't finished school," Bruce said. "And how was I going to support the baby?"
Bruce said she'd had doubts about the abortion from the beginning, describing her emotions after finding out about the pregnancy as excited and nervous at the same time.
"I was really confused, asking everybody else what I should do. Everybody told me, 'You were too young,'" she said. "What I really wanted to hear was, 'We'll help you out.'"
In the end, she walked into the clinic. When a technician performed a sonogram and handed Bruce the picture of her 6-week-old fetus -- even though she had specifically filled out paper work saying she didn't want to see the ultrasound or any pictures -- she began to seriously question her decision.
"I sat in the room for like five minutes and cried," she said.
What happened next is in dispute.
Michigan Woman Describes Horrific Abortion; Doctor Says He's Justified
Bruce said she was put into an examination room and told Hodari she was nervous.
"He was just teling me you'll be okay," she said. "It'll be fine. It's a quick procedure. It'll just feel like a cramp in your stomach."
Bruce said she begged Hodari to stop as soon as she felt him insert the speculum to start the procedure and despite her objections, brutally forced the abortion on her while his assistants pinned her to the table.
"He had a real tight grip over my mouth, but I was screaming .. and trying to pull my legs together," she said.
Bruce said Hodari, who she described as "very irate," seemed to give up at one point, telling her she could go home. As she began to relax, she said, he suddenly and painfully finished terminating the pregnancy.
"And that's when I felt the worst pain in my stomach," she said. "It really felt like he was ripping everything in me out, that's how painful it was."
Bruce said Hodari never spoke another word to her afterward and that she simply laid in the room by herself, terrified.
But Weiss told ABCNews.com a different version of the abortion. He said that by the time Bruce changed her mind, the procedure was already at the point where the pregnancy was doomed. He had broken her water and Bruce was bleeding.
"By the time she said stop, Dr. Hodari had already placed the dilator into her uterus," Weiss said. "By that time the pregnancy had been terminated. He had to continue the abortion."
Though Hodari did remove the dilator at Bruce's request, Weiss said, her health would have been in jeopardy if he didn't finish.
Weiss pointed to Bruce's own expert witness who Weiss claimed agreed that the doctor should have finished the abortion once the pregnancy was no longer viable.
"From that point on her own expert witness has said Dr. Hodari acted within reason," he said.
But Pabst argued that "we weren't at that point" in the procedure.
"The water wasn't broken," the lawyer said. "She hadn't felt the pain her in belly."
Vicki Saporta, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Abortion Federation, a professional association of abortion providers, said a patient in any medical setting should always have the right to say no.
"In any medical procedure whether it's an abortion or another procedure, if a patient says stop, a patient's wishes need to be respected," Saporta said. "But the patient needs to be informed about the risks of stopping the procedure."
She declined to comment specifically on Bruce's case, but said that if a woman's requests to stop an abortion at any point, she should be informed about that decision and given a medical consent form to sign and an emergency contact.
Depression, Suicide Attempt Lead to New Beginning
Bruce said she left Hodari's office in a daze. She said she returned to him not long after for a check up, not knowing where else to go and afraid she would never have children again.
Several weeks after the procedure, sunken into a deep depression, Bruce said she was in her car at the top of a hill, prepared to kill herself by speeding into a building at the bottom.
It was her mother's phone call that saved her life, she says. Once in therapy, she said, "My therapist had to convince me this wasn't my fault what happened. It was his fault because I told him to stop."
Shortly after that, Bruce was surprised to be pregnant again. She gave birth last year to a baby girl, who she is raising with her boyfriend.
"I still have my bad days," she said. "My therapist taught me how to work through them because I have to take care of my daughter. I can't have her be the victim of my depression."
Bruce said that while she still believes in a woman's right to have an abortion, she wishes more women would consider their options more carefully that she did.
"If you want to have an abortion that's your choice," she said. "A lot of women think if it as an easy out, but it's not."