NEW YORK (AP) — A doctor accused of botching a woman's abortion has been charged with manslaughter in her death, which came hours after she left his New York City office seeming disoriented, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Dr. Robert Rho pleaded not guilty in the 30-year-old woman's death. His lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, called the death tragic, but not criminal.
"This is a doctor who has been performing abortions safely and carefully for 23 years," Lichtman said.
But Queens District Attorney Robert Brown said Rho recklessly caused his patient's death by puncturing the wall of her uterus and slicing through an artery, and then by not giving her appropriate medical care. Bleeding profusely after the July 9 procedure at his office in Queens, she needed another procedure and then was allowed to leave after it was done, despite having collapsed and seeming confused, prosecutors said.
While being driven to her sister's Bronx home, the woman fell off the back seat and became unresponsive, prosecutors said. A hospital gave her about six pints of blood to try to treat her vaginal bleeding, but she died that night.
Now free on $400,000 bond, Rho, 52, is an obstetrician and cosmetic surgeon. The phone at his office, Liberty Women Healthcare Queens, was out of service Tuesday.
Deaths from abortion complications are rare, according to federal statistics. Two women died of such complications amid more than 730,000 abortions performed nationwide in 2011, the last year for which federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data are available. (California, Maryland, and New Hampshire didn't provide data.) A 2015 study of CDC data from 1998 to 2010 found an average of about 1.2 million abortions and 8 maternal deaths per year.
Over 600 women die each year in the United States from pregnancy or delivery complications, according to the CDC.