Erika Peterson, age 28, was admitted to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California, on July 11, 1961, because of problems breathing. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and placed in an iron lung. Erica was in the first trimester of pregnancy.
At this time, abortion was only legal in California if it was done to save the life of the mother. For reasons not disclosed in the autopsy report, Erika's physicians made the decision to abort her child as soon as she was well enough to undergo the abortion. This decision may have been influenced by the fact that Erika had been on medication for schizophrenia.
On July 21st, Erika's condition was improved, and her husband signed the consent form for the abortion, which was scheduled to take place two days later. So on July 23, doctors began the procedure to abort Erika's fetus.
Erika went into cardiac arrest during the abortion and was unable to be resuscitated. The abortion that was ostensibly intended to save her life ended her life instead.
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