Benjamin Munson has been celebrated by abortion advocates for his willingness to be the only abortionist in South Dakota. He began doing abortions in 1967. He managed his illegal practice without any maternal fatalities. However, he was arrested in 1969 for performing an abortion on a 19-year-old patient. Munson challenged his conviction, winning in circuit court. The state appealed, and the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled against him. He appealed this decision, which was rendered moot by Roe vs. Wade, which freed him to practice without fear of prosecution. All should have been well.
Munson performed an abortion on 28-year-old Linda Padfield on June 15. He discharged her, and she later was hospitalized. She finally died of massive infection on June 13.
A pathologist found the remains of a five-month fetus in Linda's uterus, missing a leg, arm, part of its skull and part of its torso. The retained fetus caused the massive infection that had killed Linda.
Munson sued to enjoin prosecution for manslaughter, but the case went to court nevertheless.
The prosecution focused on the fact that infection will inevitably result from that much retained tissue. The Attorney General commented, "You take a three-inch leg off something, you have to know that there's more in there than just the leg."
The defense, however, argued that infection is an accepted risk of abortion, and that the state couldn't prove that Munson meant to harm Linda. The jury bought it, and Munson was aquitted. He later became a member of the National Abortion Federation (NAF). In 1985, he sent a teenage patient, Yvonne Mesteth, home with retained tissue. She, like Linda Padfield, died of infection. Again Munson was prosecuted for manslaughter, and again he beat the rap.