Shirley Payne, age 33, underwent a safe and legal abortion on January 4, 1983 at Woman's Care Center in Miami. She was 16-18 weeks pregnant.
Shirley suffered a perforated uterus. When paramedics arrived on the scene, they reportedly found Shirley lying on a couch, bleeding heavily. Shirley arrived at the hospital in critical condition due to delay of transfer. An emergency hysterectomy was performed to try to save Shirley's life, but she bled to death in surgery.
Clinic documents were unclear as to who did Shirley's abortion.
Ruth Montero, Myrta Baptiste, Maura Morales, and Shirley Payne all died in a clinic owned by Hipolito Barreiro, trained in Argentina and West Africa, but not licensed in U.S. Barreiro was accused of practicing without a license and tampering with witness.
Shirley's abortion, care, and death all stand similar to criminal abortion deaths. Authorities were unable to determine who had performed the fatal abortion, because poor records were kept. She was left bleeding on a couch rather than promptly hospitalized. Her abortion was tangled up in all manner of illegal activity, including unlicensed practice of medicine and witness-tampering. The biggest difference, it seems, it that Shirley had no reason to suspect that anything would be amiss. She had society reassuring her that abortion was a safe option, practiced only by reputable, upstanding physicians.
Society was wrong. And Shirley paid for our mistaken confidence with her life.
For more abortion deaths, visit the Cemetery of Choice:
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