The first time I started to think about abortion was in 1960, when I was in second year medical school. I was assigned the case of a young woman who had died of a septic abortion. She had aborted herself using slippery elm bark.
... Slippery elm is not sterile, and frequently contains spores of the bacteria that cause gas gangrene. It is called slippery elm because, when it gets wet, it feels slippery. This makes it easier to slide slender pieces through the cervix where they absorb water, expand, dilate the cervix, produce infection and induce abortion. The young woman in our case developed an overwhelming infection. At autopsy she had multiple abscesses throughout her body, in her brain, lungs, liver and abdomen.
I have never forgotten that case.
Sounds a lot like the case of Edrica Goode. A Planned Parenthood nurse inserted laminaria into Edrica's cervix. Laminaria aren't made of slippery elm; they're made of seaweed. But the idea is the same. They absorb water, expand, and dilate the cervix. In Edrica's case, they were intended to facilitate an abortion to be performed later. But the nurse ignored Edrica's obvious symptoms of a vaginal infection. The laminaria wicked the infection into Edrica's uterus. Edrica quickly took ill, becoming so severely feverish that she was incoherent, unable to return for the rest of the abortion -- which she had been keeping a secret from her family. Edrica developed toxic shock syndrome from the infection and died.
Why is the first woman's death an unacceptable tragedy, and Edrica's death just a flukey thing you have to accept?
Back to Garcon:
I will never forget the 17-year-old girl lying on a stretcher with 6 feet of small bowel protruding from her vagina. She survived.
How was her care any worse than the care provided by Sahib Sinuhe Halil to "Thelma"? Despite what Halil clearly knew, from the two laminaria changes, was an advanced pregnancy, he first attempted to perform a suction abortion without any anesthesia. Thelma, in so much pain that she had difficulty remaining still, repeatedly screamed, "You're killing me!" "I'm dying!" "Stop!" and "I can't stand the pain!" She lost consciousness multiple times. There was no mystery to why Thelma was in such horrible pain; Halil had pulled so hard on her internal structures that he bent his forceps, then "broke the sterile field by using an unsterilized pair of desk scissors to cut inner body organs of [Thelma]." Halil pulled out Thelma's right ovary and fallopian tube, severed her left fallopian tube, and caused a large uterine rupture. He "lacerated and rendered necrotic almost four feet of small intestine" and "left the fetus floating in the abdominal cavity." Halil didn't monitor Thelma's blood loss during the procedure, then delayed transferring her to a hospital and delayed his own arrival to treat her, allowing her to go into potentially fatal hypovolemic shock from blood loss.
Or how about what Scott Barrett did to Patient B.J.? B.J. said that she awoke screaming during her abortion, and begged Barrett to stop. But Barrett proceeded, B.J. said, and had an employee clamp a hand over the patient's mouth. B.J. again lost consciousness. She awoke on a chair in the recovery room, with the bottom of her shirt drenched in blood. The next thing she remembered was Barrett carrying her out to her car. A friend drove B.J. to the hospital -- without any clinic staff even accompanying them. The doctor who performed emergency surgery on B.J. said, "It would take a lot of force, an extreme amount of force to do that kind of damage." B.J. had a 10 centimeter perforation of her uterus, and had lost around 80% of her blood. The ligaments around her uterus were severed, and her right ovary had been torn loose. She had to have her uterus and ovary removed due to the damage. The hearing document slams Barrett, noting that "having nearly eviscerated his patient and with her clearly in critical condition, he sent her to the hospital in a private car during rush hour. ... A more egregious example of incompetence and gross negligence is difficult to imagine."
Janet R. underwent an abortion by Dr. Sylvan Hershey. He failed to obtain fetal parts or amniotic fluid, so he reached in with forceps, grasped tissue, and pulled out Janet's bowel through her vagina. She had to have several feet of bowel resected. (Jury Verdict Review; Bergen County Superior Court Docket No. L38313 86MM)
The Kansas City Star reported on a woman who had undergone an abortion and sterilization procedure by Dr. Dennis Miller in 1985. He pulled out 3 feet of her bowel and damaged her uterus so badly she had to have a hysterectomy.
Sharon D. sued Women's Pavilion after their doctor botched her abortion. Dr. Fore noted that the suction tube was clogged. He had punctured Sharon's uterus and suctioned out all but 5.5 inches of her small intestine, along with her fallopian tubes, her appendix, and part of her large intestine. Sharon had to have a permanent catheter tube implanted to allow nutrients to be taken into her bloodstream, a procedure that takes up to 14 hours daily. (Durham Herald Sun)
At least these women survived their bowel injuries. Sharon Hamplton (pictured with her son, Curtis, who was nestling in her arms as she bled to death), "Julie", Ellen Williams, Sharon Davis, Magdalena Rodriguez, Jammie Garcia, and Moris Helen Herron didn't.
Back to Garcon:
I will never forget the jaundiced woman in liver and kidney failure, in septic shock, with very severe anemia, whose life we were unable to save.
I have documented seventy-three safe, legal septic abortion deaths, among them Carolina Gutierrez (pictured), who endured gangrene and multiple amputations over Christmas, New Years, and her 21st birthday before finally leaving her young children motherless.
Now, predictably, our pal Garcon credits legalization with the decrease in numbers of such deaths, but he's ignoring the reality: The decrease in the number of abortion deaths is a trend that began with the introduction of antibiotics and blood transfusions. Take the dates off a chart of abortion deaths during the 20th Century, and you'd probably be totally unable to point to the period when the switch was made from "back alley butchery" to main-street maiming.
In fact, looking at the data, you would think that abortion had been legalized in 1940, recriminalized in the mid-1950s, and then legalized again around 1960:
Yes, Garcon, the women who suffered and died before legalization suffered and died needlessly -- just as women continue to suffer and die. The suffering and death are not, and have never been, caused by legislators wielding pens. The suffering and death are, and have been, caused by prochoicers wielding abortion instruments.
Prochoicers not so very different from yourself, Garcon.
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