Monday, August 14, 2006

Illegal abortion anniversary: Kris Humphrey

Kris Humphrey placed a high value on "self-determination" and doing things "naturally." These values led her to choose the herbal abortion that ended her life on August 14, 1994.

Kris had undergone a clinic abortion previously, but hadn't liked the experience. According to a friend, she found the procedure painful and the staff indifferent. Kris, said the friend, thought the staff at planned parenthood "treated her like she was doing something wrong, something she should be ashamed of," for choosing abortion.

Her stepbrother's death two years earlier due to an allergic reaction to a painkiller also led her to distrust modern medicine, said her family.

Kris used herbal remedies for minor ailments, so she already had ideas about where to go for information on an herbal abortion. She consulted friends. One of Kris's friends said she'd done more than one self-induced abortion and recommended an abortion technique from Wise Woman Herbal, by Susun Weed. The method relied on a tea of pennyroyal extract and black cohosh root, both readily available in health-food stores. Both were well known as herbal abortifacients. In fact, an album by the Yeastie Girlz included a pennyroyal abortion recipe in the liner notes.

On August 5, Kris started the abortion regimen.

Over the approximately 10 days Kris was taking the tea, she went about her buisness, socializing with friends and family. Kris experienced abdominal pain and cramping, which she took as signs that the abortion was going as planned. Neither Kris nor her friend who recommended the tea thought anything was wrong at first.

The only person who was concerned was her mother, Embee. The two attended a movie together on August 7, and Kris told her mother about the pregnancy and about her herbalist plans. Embee, who'd suffered through an ectopic pregnancy herself, saw something familiar in the way Kris was holding her side from pain. She asked Kris if she was sure that the pregnancy was normal, not ectopic, but her daughter evaded the question. Instead, Kris told her mother that the abortion should be complete on the 9th, and that she'd call then. But Kris continued to experience problems and continued to take the abortion concoction.

By Friday, August 12, Kris had given up on her herbal abortion plan. Embee and a friend offered to pay for her to have the abortion done at Planned Parenthood on the 13th. But when one of Kris's many housemates came home at 7:30 on Friday evening, she found Kris pale and feverish, and learned that she'd been vomiting. She continued to suffer chills, cramps, and vomiting for the next six hours.

Her condition continued to deteriorate. She passed out at around 11 p.m. Her friends continued to try to care for her, placing her in a cold bath at about 2 a.m Saturday to try to address her feverish sweating. But Kris just went into a seizure, so her friends carried her to the kitchen. One of them noticed that she wasn't breathing and started screaming. One friend called 911 while another attempted to perform CPR on the kitchen floor.

The paramedics arrived at 2:27 a.m and found Kris pulseless. They managed to resuscitate her enroute to the hospital, where emergency room staff put her on a ventilator and tried to stabilize her.

Her friends told staff about the abortion, and even brought the bottles of pennyroyal and black cohosh. The staff had no idea what effects the herbs might be having on Kris, and called poison control.

Kris was in shock and suffering from disseminated intravascular coagulopathy. "She was bleeding from everywhere," said a doctor who treated her. "She was even bleeding from all the places she was pierced--her nose, her mouth, her brow, her labia. Everywhere."

Doctors suspected an ectopic pregnancy, but feared doing exploratory surgery because Kris's condition was so fragile. While they were just done with a CAT scan at around 9:00 Saturday morning, Kris went into cardiac arrest. Staff used a defibrillator several times in addition to multiple IV lines to revive her. After half an hour, her heart finally started beating again. But despite all the IV fluids, she still had no blood pressure.

In desperation, the doctors proceeded with surgery, finding an unruptured right tubal pregnancy that was bleeding from the end of the fallopian tube. The doctors removed the pregnancy and "significant quantity of old blood which was malodorous."

Even though the tube hadn't ruptured, it appeared that the effect of the pennyroyal on Kris's liver had caused the clotting problems that had led to her excessive internal bleeding.

After surgery, Kris showed no signs of responsiveness. She was declared brain dead on Sunday. Friends and family gathered at the hospital and life support was turned off. Half an hour later, at 4:51 p.m., Kris was declared dead.

Testing on samples of Kris's liver showed signs of damage associated with one of the substances, pulegone, contained in pennyroyal. Not enough is known of the effects of pulegone on the liver to say for sure what effect the damage had on Kris or what role it played in her death.

Kris's divorced parents are united after her death in a lawsuit filed against the pennyroyal manufacturer and the store where Kris likely bought the herbs. The store is called, in a bitter ironic twist, "Bread of Life." They want to see pennyroyal and other herbal remedies labeled with warnings about their possible negative effects.

Kris's friends, on the other hand, blame the health clinic where Kris had her positive pregnancy test. They say that the clinic should have done an ultrasound to check the location of the embryo. But since Kris had no unusual symptoms at the time, and had been given a referral to Planned Parenthood, there really was no reason for the clinic to do such an examination.

Nobody, it seems, is blaming the culture that makes abortion normative and assures young women that it's perfectly safe.

6 comments:

leisah said...

I was in the room that day my dear friend Kris died. I held her hand as they took her off life support. She is missed to this day. I sincerely hope that people who allow their self righteous beliefs to get in the way of abortion rights will some day find it in their souls to be human and allow love to come forth from their blackened hearts so that no one else's friends have to make decisions that put their lives in jeopardy.

GrannyGrump said...

I agree with you 100% that Kris's death was a needless tragedy.

Have you not noticed that unlike some activists, I don't pick and choose with abortion deaths are worth noticing or not? I blog every year on Kris's death, just as I blog about hundreds of other women who died because they, or somebody else, got the idea that abortion was going to make everything okay.

Yes, Kris's death was needless and tragic. She was taken away from her family and friends. As was Laura Smith just this past September and Edrica Goode just nine months before.

Legalizing abortion didn't stop the needless deaths. All it did was stop prochoice groups from giving a happy shit. A death from a safe and legal abortion is shrugged off as a perfectly acceptable price to pay for societal sanction of the pet cause. Well, I beg to differ.

I can understand that Kris's death means much more to you than the 10 women the CDC counted as having lost their lives to safe and legal abortions that same year. (God only knows how many really died, since CDC staff aren't exactly diligent about noticing abortion deaths.) But those women were just as real to their families and friends as Kris was to you.

Pamela Colson was sent home to bleed to death in the back seat of her friend's car. Alerte Desanges died of a massive embolism. Jammie Garcia was only 15 years old and she was sent home with the bulk of her fetus shoved through the back of her uterus into her bowel and left there to rot. Christina Mora died of sepsis. Sara Niebel, only 15 years old, got meningitis from dirty insturments. Magdalena Rodriguez was left unattended to bleed out on the floor. Why are none of these deaths worth even bothering to notice? Why is it okay to turn a blind eye, and a blackened heart, to the suffering of these families?

Kris could have taken her ectopic pregnancy to a nice safe and legal abortion provider and wound up just as dead. And then good luck getting your prochoice friends up in arms. It would be just as big a yawn to them as Brenda Vise's death is.

leisah said...

No one should have to endure suffering or death because they had a legal abortion. Those women who died of legal abortion are mourned just as much as my friend Kris. I do not wish that any woman should have to make a very difficult decision to end her pregnancy and then have to endure the scorn of those who disapprove for their own religioius reasons. It is frankly none of their business what a woman freely decides to do with her own life. I believe that the medical team that provided shoddy unsafe, deadly services should be held fully responsible for those women's deaths and should be punished to the full extent of the law. Perhaps the physicians who performed the medically unethical services were pro-lifers trying to get back at the women for trying to get their lives back together and not bring an unwanted child into this incredibly horrible world of hate and destruction. Being a single mother is not an easy task.

GrannyGrump said...

I'm really glad to hear you share my outrage over the needless deaths. So many prochoicers just dismiss them with comments about "all surgery has risks," as if it's routine for a surgeon to leave a patient lying bleeding on the floor while he goes and sees other patients for elective procedures.

I'm a bit perplexed, though, by this:

"Perhaps the physicians who performed the medically unethical services were pro-lifers trying to get back at the women for trying to get their lives back together and not bring an unwanted child into this incredibly horrible world of hate and destruction."

Why would a prolifer be performing abortions?

And, by the way, this isn't well known but all the prolife pregnancy centers and sidewalk counselors I know of refer for abortion aftercare, and many have been known to cover the expenses for uninsured women. Some women's lives have been saved because when the clinic staff blew them off, the prolifers outside took them to a hospital and enabled them to get lifesaving care.

And it's not just saving lives. When Suzanne Logan was left paralyzed and mute in a nursing home after her abortion, the local prolifers had a fundraiser to buy her a Cannon Communicator, and visited her regularly until her death.

You may encounter buttheads, but there are buttheads everywhere and they are going to land on both sides of any huge social battle. Most of the folks I know working against abortion are women who've been there, done that, and don't want to see any other woman endure what they've endured. Of the people I've been working most closely with, three have suffered through their own abortions, and two have had daughters die from legal abortions. None of us want to see anybody else suffer the way they and their families have.

leisah said...

Perplexed indeed. Why would a pro-lifer kill an abortion provider? Is that physician's life not worth anything? Why would a pro-lifer approve of a war? Are those lives of innocent beings not valuable? There is such a huge hypocricy in the ideology of pro-life when so much death is at the hands of some pro-life individuals. I too remain perplexed.

It's wonderful that some prolife folks assisted those in need. That's generous and the right thing to do. The women who received their help needed support, not ridicule or judgement. They have enough on their minds to have to battle the outside world in addition to dealing with personal issues that lead them to have to make a difficult decision.

Why hasn't there been a lawsuit filed against negligent caregivers that clearly did not do their job of follow-up care to their patients? This is outrageous and unacceptable. Those people should lose their licenses to practice medicine (if they really have one).

GrannyGrump said...

Perplexed indeed. Why would a pro-lifer kill an abortion provider? Is that physician's life not worth anything?

Paul Hill had been excommunicated from his church for advocating violence. He'd been expelled from prolife events for passing out fliers advocating violence. He was very much a lone wolf when he acted, as were the others, who unlike Hill had never been part of any group. You might not have noticed but we prefer to convert abortionists. Bernard Nathanson, Beverly McMillan, Carol Everett, and Norma McCorvey are perhaps the best known converts, but there are hundreds of them.

Why would a pro-lifer approve of a war?

You'll find a far cry from uniformity of thought on that. There's a very large "seamless garment" contingency. A lot of prolifers are devout Catholics, and you'll note that the Pope, in addition to his outspoken views against abortion, also speaks frequently and eloquently against war. So between the Catholics and the "seamless garment" protestants and people of other faiths (or no faith), you'll find a high percentage of pacifists among prolifers.

Those who do support combat in some cases subscribe to the "just war" theory, in that it is sometimes necessary to take arms against a tyrant or an aggressor. But again, no uniformity of thought. That's why aside from specifically "seamless garment" groups, it is rare for a prolife group to take any stand on war at all. It'll start needless infighting.

Are those lives of innocent beings not valuable?

Um, can you give me an example of prolifers advocating the slaying of innocent people?

It's wonderful that some prolife folks assisted those in need. That's generous and the right thing to do.

I's more than *some*.I believe that an analysis was done that found over 80% of prolifers' time and money went directly to helping women and families in need. Less than 20% goes into political activism and other projects. It's just that those projects are much more highly visible. Who could possibly see or notice the women visiting Suzanne Logan in the nursing home?

Which leaves me unclear on what you mean by this: The women who received their help needed support, not ridicule or judgement. They have enough on their minds to have to battle the outside world in addition to dealing with personal issues that lead them to have to make a difficult decision.

Moving on.

Why hasn't there been a lawsuit filed against negligent caregivers that clearly did not do their job of follow-up care to their patients?

There are a lot of lawsuits that do get filed -- which is often how I end up learning of the deaths. But there are also barriers to filing a lawsuit, or proceeding to completion once it's filed.

Many of these women have led very tragic lives, and have endured things that is beyond what many people can imagine. I know of one woman who was seriously injured in an abortion, but the doctor's attorney managed to get hold of a very embarrassing videotape the woman's boyfriend had made. Her attorney assured her that he would file motions to get the tape back and have it declared inadmissable in court, but just the thought that the doctor had seen it, and his lawyers, and that a judge might see it to make his judgment as to its admissability, made her drop the suit.

I wish I had a copy of the National Abortion Federation meeting tape in which an ACLU attorney (I believe Cathrine Colbert (sp?) but I could be remembering wrong) chewed the doctors out for their malpractice and the way it forced her to "beat the shit out of these women" to get them to drop their cases.

The viciousness with which they'll attack is truly staggering. Even if there is nothing compromising about the woman, the lawyers for the defense can put her family through a living hell. Deanna Bell's family is still being strung along in the courts, 13 years after she was killed by a massive Brevitol overdose. That child has been dead now as long as she'd been walking this earth, and her family is still being legally abused by people who should have had the good grace to admit their error and settle out of court. I think you can understand that many families crack from the strain and drop the suits.

This is outrageous and unacceptable. Those people should lose their licenses to practice medicine (if they really have one).

Agreed, but often it's turned into a legal matter rather than a medical one. Braxton Tabb got sued for knowingly sending a woman home with a retained fetal head.The woman also complained to the medical board. Tabb's lawyer got other Colorado abortionists to admit that if they had trouble fishing out the head, they would just send the woman home and hope she expelled it on her own. Thus, deliberately performing an incomplete abortion -- which can cause fatal bleeding or infection -- became the "community standard of care" in Colorado, and the medical board could not punish a doctor for doing it.

It's all very frustrating and often infuriating.