They told me I had to get down to St. Luke's right away, that Dawn was at that hospital fighting for her life.
It's the call every parent dreads. Ruth Ravenelle was no exception. Her 13-year-old daughter, Dawn, was active in the church where both her parents were ministers. The family sang Gospel songs together. Dawn was a dream child -- the kid who did her homework without being told, who liked to surprise her mother by cleaning the house. She was what's known in the vernacular as "a good girl." Her parents never expected any trouble about Dawn.
I was going, 'How can she be fighting for her life? She left for school this morning, looking healthy, never been sick.'
What Ruth didn't know was that Dawn had slipped off her pedestal, had engaged in a dalliance with a 15-year-old Romeo. And when she learned that she was pregnant, she knew her parents would be crushed. She went to a teacher for advice. The teacher and a counselor arranged to take care of the whole mess so that Dawn's parents would never have to know. The boyfriend borrowed a credit card from a relative to pay for the risky, expensive, second-trimester abortion.
The counselor at Eastern Women's Center (a National Abortion Federation member) had seen how frightened Dawn was, and had marked on her chart that she should be treated with "tender loving care." But abortionist Alan Kline had his own ideas about what constituted "tender loving care." According to the suit filed by Dawn's parents, he didn't administer enough anesthesia to get the frightened child through the entire procedure. She began to cough, vomit, and choke. Kline put a breathing tube in Dawn's throat, put her aside, and left her unattended to lapse into a coma. Dawn was eventually rushed to the hospital, where it finally occurred to somebody to do the obvious: call Dawn's mother.
While I was there at the hospital -- they were doing tests -- I had to keep my hand pressed over my mouth to keep from screaming in horror. I kept going, 'This is all a bad dream. I am going to wake up and this will not have happened.'
Day after day Dawn's family gathered at her bedside, talking to her, playing tapes of the family singing together, trying to lure her back from the brink of death -- all to no avail. Dawn died three weeks after her abortion, on February 11, 1985, without ever having regained consciousness.
The family sued and won, but as the New York Post headline pointed out, "$1.2M Won't Bring Her Back." The story featured a photo of Dawn at her junior high graduation, in cap and gown, gazing out smiling at a future she would never have.
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