Monday, August 29, 2016

From Self-Induced to Safe and Legal

Chicago, 1918 and 1927

On August 29, 1918, 23-year-old homemaker Mabel Johnston died at Chicago's Cook County Hospital of blood poisoning caused by an abortion perpetrated by Dr. Nathan Smedley and Dr. Emma Warren. Both were arrested and arraigned but the case never went to trial.

On August 29, 1925, Katarzyna Tobiasz, age 31 or 32, died at Chicago's St. Mary's Hospital from an abortion performed on her that day. A woman whose name is spelled once as Barbara Kolur and elsewhere as Barbara Kar was held by the coroner on August 31 for Katarzyna's death. Kolur/Kar's profession is given as nurse or midwife.  On July 5, 1927, she was indicted by a grand jury for felony murder in Katarzyna's death.

Pittsburgh, 1926

On Wednesday, August 18, 1926, 22-year-old Myrtle Shall's friends and her fiance, Bruce Armstrong, brought her to West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh. She had been feverish and in pain for the past three weeks, and now she was in shock.

Bruce, who said he'd known Myrtle for six or seven years, knew only that his fiancee was terribly ill but didn't know why. Her mother, Alice Phillips, on the other hand, was able to tell the doctor more. Myrtle, she said, had attempted a self-induced abortion when her period had been two weeks later. At first her vaginal bleeding was a welcomes sign that the abortion had worked, but when it continued for three weeks, accompanied by fever and pain, her family and friends had become concerned.

Myrtle had been perfectly well prior to inducing the abortion. Now she was vomiting and the doctors found her to be weak and anemic, with a rapid pulse and respiration and an alarming blood pressure of 136/100. In spite of all of the doctors' best efforts, Myrtle died at 9:15 p.m. on Sunday, August 29.


Chicago, 1927

In 1927, fifteen-year-old schoolgirl Florence Kruse became pregnant as a result of statutory rape by Corwyn Lynch. Somebody arranged for an abortion, which was performed on August 29. Florence died that day.

Dr. James Aldrich was arrested on murder by abortion charges that day for the girl's death. However, the coroner's jury was unable to confirm that Aldrich had performed the abortion, and he was released. Florence's father, Louis C. Kruse, was booked as an accessory. However, on September 17, both men were cleared by the coroner, and on September 19 they were released. The coroner did, however, recommend that Corwyn Lynch be charged with murder. There is no record that Lynch was charged. Florence's mother, Amanda Kirsch Kruse, was not implicated.


Chicago, 1987

Diane Watson was 27 years old when she went to Hedd Surgi-Center in Chicago for a safe and legal abortion on August 29, 1987. Although Diane was over 12 weeks pregnant, Rudolph Moragne proceeded with the abortion, in violation of state regulations prohibiting outpatient abortions after 12 weeks.

Diane had seizures and went into cardiac arrest at the clinic. Moragne and the other physicians present -- Henry Pimentel, Ester Pimentel, and Calvin Williams -- failed to perform CPR.

Diane's autopsy report attributed her death to "seizures due to anesthesia during an abortion," and made note of the recent pregnancy. Diane's death certificate, however, not only makes no mention of the abortion, but has the "no" box checked for whether or not the decedent had been pregnant during the previous three months.

Diane's family filed suit. A doctor reviewing the case said that Moragne and Hedd staff "deviated from the accepted standards of care [and] failed to appropriately and timely diagnose and treat intraoperative complications which resulted in her death."

Another abortion patient, Magnolia Reed Thomas, bled to death when Moragne failed to diagnose her ectopic pregnancy when she came to him at Hedd for a safe, legal abortion.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Fatal Abortions, Mostly in Chicago

A Doctor in Chicago, 1906

Mrs. Anna May Klanenberg, age 24, died at St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago from complications of an illegal abortion on August 23, 1906. Physician J. W. Mitchell was held by the coroner's jury, and indicted, but the source document doesn't indicate that there was ever a trial.

A Lay Abortionist in Queens, 1916

Lydia Hoff of Jamaica, Queens, was charged with perpetrating a fatal abortion on 26-year-old Mrs. Violet King on August 11, 1916. Violet, who died on August 23, left behind three children.

Another Doctor in Chicago, 1927

On August 23, 1927, 27-year-old Shellane Franklin, a Black woman, died at the scene of the crime from an abortion performed on her that day. Dr. Gordon Jackson, a white man, was held by the coroner on October 28. On December 15, he was indicted for felony murder. Shellane's abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

A Doctor in Chicago, 1974

Twenty-five-year-old Dorothy Muzorewa, a nurse, had recently immigrated to the Chicago area from Zimbabwe. A jouralist's notes after her death tell the following story:

Dorothy went to Women's Aid Clinic for a safe and legal abortion on June 15, 1974. The fetus didn't die, however, and Dorothy returned to the clinic on August 21 to report her symptoms. Staff told her to return the following day. Dorothy returned to Women's Aid, bleeding and in pain. David Turow examined Dorothy, diagnosed an infection, and sent her home with prescriptions for tetracycline to control the infection and ergonovine to control the bleeding.

Dorothy's husband said that he awoke at around 6:00 on the morning of August 23 to find his wife bleeding profusely. Dorothy assured him that she was just menstruating, so he left for school. When he returned home, he was alarmed by Dorothy's bleeding and called an ambulance. Dorothy was rushed to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival shortly after noon. Only after her death did her husband, a theology student, learn of the pregnancy and abortion. 


A witness in Dorothy's apartment described the bedroom as "wall to wall blood." He found the fetus in a waste basket.

The coroner ruled Dorothy's death from hemorrhage accidental.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Gamut of Abortion Deaths, 1908 - 1988

Two Typical Chicago Abortions

On August 14, 1908, 23-year-old homemaker Bertha Isserstadt died at Chicago's Evangelical Deconesses' Hospital from complications of an abortion perpetrated on August 5. A woman named Margaret Wiedman, age 39, was held by the coroner, but eventually acquitted for reasons not given in the source document. Wiedman's profession was given as "abortion provider". Given the plethra of abortionist-midwives in Chicago at the time, it's likely that Wiedman was one. Weidman insisted that she had been summoned to Bertha's home on June 13 and asked to perform an abortion but she had refused. Bertha's death, she said, was caused by eating green apples.

On August 19, 1917, 31-year-old seamstress Anna Lindquist died at Chicago's County Hospital from a criminal abortion perpetrated that day, reportedly by nurse/midwife Katherine Schmidt. Schmidt was tried in Anna's death but acquitted on February 28, 1918 for reasons not indicated on the source document.

Self-Induced in Oklahoma, 1937

Ruth Haught, a 30-year-old widow, died at University Hospital in Hobart, Oklahoma, on August 19, 1937, of blood poisoning from an apparent self-induced abortion.

One of At Least 16, California, 1988

National Abortion Federation logo, sky blue and white with text only
Documents regarding Tami Suematsu, age 19, alleged that she underwent a safe and legal abortion by Vern Wagner at Riverside Family Planning Center in Los Angeles on August 19, 1988. Tami went into bronchial spasm and asthma-related respiratory failure then cardiac arrest. She was transported to a hospital, but died shortly after arrival.

Riverside Family Planning was a Family Practice Associates Medical Group facility and thus a member of the prestigious National Abortion Federation. Other patients known to have died after abortion at FPA facilities include Denise HolmesPatricia ChaconMary PenaJosefina GarciaLanice DorseyJoyce OrtenzioDeanna BellSusan LevyChristina MoraTa Tanisha WessonNakia JordenMaria LehoKimberly NeilMaria Rodriguez, and Chanelle Bryant.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Midwife in Chicago, "Human Wolves" in Oklahoma

A Chicago Midwife, 1901

Annie Robinson, a 28-year-old homemaker, died in her Chicago home at around 4:00 a.m. on August 18, 1901. About ten days earlier she confessed to her husband, George, and her mother, Mary Schroeder, that she was suffering from the effects of a criminal abortion and named midwife Teresa Muenster as the perpetrator. George told the family doctor, H. I. Hook, and Hook recommended that George notify the police. It ultimately had been Hook who notified authorities about Annie's death.

After his wife died, George went to the police. "I had no idea that my wife had visited Mrs. Muenster," he said, "and until she knew that she was dying she kept the matter a secret from me. When she learned that she was about to die she called to her bedside her mother and myself. She declared that she had visited the Muenster woman three times, and that the midwife was responsible for her condition. She told us, moreover, that her brother's wife, Caroline Schroeder, who died two years ago, had been a patient of the Muenster woman, and that the second treatment by the midwife proved fatal to her. I am determined to see that justice is done and that somebody shall pay for the death of my wife."

Muenster, about 60 years old, had been a practicing Chicago midwife for 30 years. George, a cashier at a streetcar company, was left to care for their two small children. Dr. Muenster was arrested that day, and she was held by the Coroner's Jury. Mrs. Robinson's abortion was typical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was performed by a physician.


The First Victim of "Human Wolves," Oklahoma, 1917

I learned about 18-year-old Elsie Stone‘s sad end while looking for memorials for the unborn at Find-a-Grave. Evidently Colby Weaver, who is interested in old graves, was intrigued by the inscription on another woman‘s headstone. Underneath the dates on the marker of Katherine Cross are the words: "Murdered by Human Wolves." Weaver tracked down a newspaper article on Katherine‘s death by criminal abortion, and there learned of this earlier victim.

The Seminole County News in Oklahoma reported that 18-year-old school teacher Elsie Stone went to the practice of Dr. A. H. Yates on August 15, 1917, for a "criminal operation." Elise remained there for three or four days before being sent home, where she died.

On her death certificate, her death was attributed to "congestive chill." But concerned citizens complained to the County Attorney, A.G. Nichols. Nichols ordered Elsie's body exhumed and an autopsy performed at the cemetery; thus the real cause of her death was discovered.

Yates was arrested, along with Fred O'Neil, the principal of the school where Elise worked. The men waived arraignment. O'Neil, a married man, was accused of arranging the abortion. Elsie's friends said that O'Neil was the father of her baby.

Yates and O'Neil were originally charged with murder, but because of legal technicalities the charges were reduced to manslaughter. Yates was arrested for Katherine Cross's abortion while awaiting trial. Yates was subsequently acquitted even though the initial ballot for the jury was 11 to 1 for conviction.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Safe and Legal in the 1970s

New York's Legal Abortion Free-For-All, 1971

"Vicki" was 23 years old when she underwent an abortion in New York state, taking advantage of the liberalized abortion law. She was 20 weeks pregnant. The doctor decided to use the saline abortion method, which involved injecting a strong salt solution into the amniotic fluid. The fetus would swallow and inhale the fluid, which caused massive internal bleeding. The fetus would die, triggering labor. Saline was injected into Vicki's uterus to begin the abortion. The next day, she began to show signs of infection. She expelled her dead fetus but her condition did not improve. On August 17, 1971, she died of sepsis.

Some of the other women who died because of New York abortionists' careless enthusiasm for abortions during the pre-Roe period include:

  • Pearl Schwier, July 12, 1970, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • Carmen Rodriguez, July 19, 1970, salt solution intended to kill the fetus accidentally injected into her bloodstream
  • Barbara Riley, July 20, 1970, sickle-cell crisis triggered by abortion recommended by doctor due to her sickle cell disease
  • "Amanda" Roe, September 22, 1970, sent back to her home in Indiana with an untreated hole poked in her uterus
  • Maria Ortega, October 10, 1970, fetus shoved through her uterus into her pelvic cavity then left there
  • "Kimberly" Roe, December 23, 1970, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • "Amy" Roe, January 2, 1971, massive pulmonary embolism
  • "Andrea" Roe, January 20, 1971, overwhelming infection
  • "Sandra" Roe, April 18, 1971, committed suicide due to post-abortion remorse
  • "Anita" Roe, May 11, 1971, bled to death in her home during process of outpatient saline abortion
  • Margaret Smith, June 16 1971, hemorrhage from multiple lacerations during outpatient hysterotomy abortion
  • "Annie" Roe, June 24, 1971, cardiac arrest during anesthesia
  • "Audrey" Roe, July 1, 1971, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • "April" Roe, August 22, 1971, injected with saline for outpatient abortion, went into shock and died
  • "Barbara" Roe, September 23, 1971, cardiac arrest after saline injection for abortion
  • "Tammy" Roe, October 13, 1971, massive post-abortion infection
  • Carole Schaner, October 20, 1971, hemorrhage from multiple lacerations during outpatient hysterotomy abortion
  • "Beth" Roe, December 29, 1971, saline injection meant to kill fetus accidentally injected into her bloodstream
  • "Roseann" Roe, February 27, 1971, vomiting with seizures causing pneumonia after saline abortion
  • "Connie" Roe, March 8, 1972, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • "Julie" Roe, April 16, 1972, holes torn in her uterus and bowel
  • "Robin" Roe, May 4, 1972, lingering abortion complications
  • "Roxanne" Roe, May 13, 1972, given overdose of abortion sedatives
  • "Danielle" Roe, May 17, 1972, air in her bloodstream

Clinic Run by Erstwhile "Back Alley Butcher" in Florida, 1978

Marina Deschapell, age 34, went to the Miami abortion facility at 620 SW 1st Street for a safe and legal six to eight week abortion on August 17, 1978. Eduardo F. Elias administered Valium and Xylocaine for the abortion. Immediately after the procedure, Elias noticed that Marina was not breathing. He initiated CPR and an emergency team was summoned. The ambulance crew found Marina with no signs of life. Although the medical examiner did not attribute Marina's death directly to the abortion, police noted that the clinic, owned by former criminal abortionist Dr. Luis Barquet, was not equipped with any emergency equipment other than an air bag.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

From Boston in 1858 to Pittsburgh in 1989

Ugly Rumors in Boston, 1858

On Monday, August 16, 1858, Dr. David R. Brown went to an undertaker asking for the removal from is home of a body he said was that of his 37-year-old servant, Emily A. Thompson. He said that she had died from cholera. Somebody found this fishy to the District Attorney. The body was exhumed and examined. The dead woman didn't look any older than age 20. An autopsy also showed that the death had not been due do cholera but rather due to abortion complications.

“She was of good form, tall and slim, and appeared to be unused to labor. When the body was disinterred a gold ring was found on one finger and an ear-ring in one ear. She has light-brown hair and blue or hazel eyes, and is said to have been a very beautiful and intelligent girl.”

Her name was Susan Webster.

Rumors also swarmed that she had been sent to Boston the abortion by a "near relative" who had gotten her pregnant. The "near relative" turned out to be her uncle, Philip Ulmer.

Brown was arrested and charged with manslaughter on August 24, 1858, and Ulmer was charged as an accessory. A trial in March resulted in a hung jury, with 11 voting for conviction and one for acquittal after 44 hours of deliberation. In a subsequent trial in April, 1859, Brown was convicted and faced a sentence of seven to 21 years.


Chicago, 1899

On August 16, 1899, 35-year-old Antonie Vacicek, a married woman, died in her Chicago home from complications of an illegal abortion performed there that day. Mary Koupal was arrested and held by Coroner's Jury in the death, but was discharged in the September term. Koupal's profession is not listed.

Safe and Legal in California, 1969

Cheryl Vosseler was 17 years old when she was admitted to Fresno General Hospital on July 31, 1969, to undergo a legal abortion. California allowed abortions to be performed in hospitals at that time. After she was discharged, Cheryl suffered from complications, and was readmitted two weeks later. Surgery was performed August 14, 1969, to try to save her life. Cheryl's condition continued to deteriorate. She finally died August 16, 1969.

One of Three Deaths at a Chicago Clinic, 1974

Dorothy Brown, age 37, underwent a safe and legal abortion at Friendship Medical Clinic in Chicago on August 16, 1974. Within hours, she was dead at a nearby hospital. Her death was attributed to "shock related to hemorrhagic necrosis of uterus." That means that blood from her uterus was unable to get back into her circulatory system, overwhelming the tissues and causing them to die. Julia Rogers and Evelyn Dudley also died after abortions at Friendship Medical Center.

An Unwanted, Contraindicated, Obsolete Abortion, Pittsburgh, 1989

A snapshot of a middle-aged woman and teenage girl of Italian descent, smiling and embracing
Deborah and Marla, shortly before the abortion
Deborah Cardamone has raised her grandson since he was one year old. She had to. The child's mother, Deborah's daughter Marla Anne, died at the age of 18. Pregnant after a date rape, Marla had planned to put her baby up for adoption, since she already had a toddler to take care of, but a medical-social worker at Magee Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh strongly urged Marla to have an abortion.

The social worker insisted that Marla had harmed her unborn baby because of Tegretal and Elavil she'd been taking for depression. No family would adopt a disabled baby, Marla was told. The social worker pointed out to Marla how difficult it would be to continue to assist in caring for her quadriplegic father if she also had to care for a disabled child that nobody would adopt. Statistics gave a 92% chance that the baby was fine, but Marla had a sonogram to be sure. After the sonogram, the social worker kept pressuring Marla. Finally, she gave in. She was admitted to the hospital for the abortion August 15, 1989.

Although the urea induction technique -- which involved injecting a chemical into the uterus -- was contraindicated due to Marla's medical history, Michael W. Weinberger injected urea into his patient's uterus anyway. Either an error during this injection or some other mishap caused the tissue of Marla's uterus to start dying. The laminaria used to dilate Marla's cervix had also been inserted by Weinberger in a manner resulting in massive infection. Her kidneys shut down.

Marla became obviously ill during the night, with nausea, vomiting, urinary incontinence, and dried blood on her teeth. Her pulse and temperature were severely elevated. At 6:30 AM the charge nurse contacted a the first of several doctors to treat Marla, but no were cultures taken.

By 7 AM Marla was "increasingly disoriented and speaking inappropriately." By 7:15, her blood pressure had fallen to 80/40, her pulse had shot up to 144, and she was "unresponsive, grunting loudly, and having seizures." At 10 AM, intravenous antibiotics were administered, but of course they would do nothing to address the kidney failure or rotting tissue. Marla was dead from septicemia at 12:15 PM.

The suit filed by Marla's family noted failure to notify them of her deteriorating condition. They never got to come and see her one last time before she died. Marla's parents adopted her orphaned son. To add further insult to injury, the coroner's office lost the body of Marla's baby, Christopher Michael. (To see the coroner's photos of Marla and her baby, click here.)

Marla's family faulted the doctor and hospital with performance of an abortion that they should have known would only make Marla's existing depression worse, failure to remove the dead fetus, administering an overdose of Pitocin, and failure to consult qualified doctors.

Marla's mother adds bitterly:


I had to file a lawsuit to get any answers. Marla had died of septicemia--a massive infection from the abortion. I also learned that the social worker had never seen Marla's sonogram or discussed the results with her. Marla never saw the words on the sonogram report that would have changed everything: No abnormalities detected. My daughter was pressured to have an abortion, and there had been no reason for it, no reason at all.

I've often wondered why pro-choice women's groups have never expressed any sympathy or concern over Marla's death. Why aren't they demanding justice? Why aren't they concerned that Marla was lied to about the condition of her baby and wasn't shown the sonogram results? Why aren't they concerned that proper treatment was delayed because Marla was misdiagnosed by a resident who was only two months out of medical school? Why are they so quiet?


I believe it's because pro-choice groups don't want women to read or hear about abortion injuries and deaths. Bad publicity hurts their cause. That's why they prefer that Marla and her baby remain hidden statistics.

"The last two weeks of her life, all she did was cry," Deborah Cardamone told me.


Deborah still cries.

Monday, August 15, 2016

1909: A Teen Dead, a Doctor Implicated

On August 15, 1909, Lillian Swing, age 15, died in Chicago from an abortion performed on August 9.

Dr. Hamilton Shaver and his wife were held by the coroner's jury. The source document doesn't indicate that the case went to trial.