Constance E. Cook is the unsung heroine of abortionists nationwide. She lay the groundwork for the semi-licensed and quasi-licensed and apparently-licensed and woefully unsupervised quackery that passes for professionalism in abortion practice today. She drafted New York's law, passed in 1970, legalizing abortion on demand.
I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time.
So Constance E. Cook's little brainchild made New York the first abortion free-for-all in the United States.
The fallout was almost immediate. Even before the law went into effect, abortionists were setting up shop openly. One woman who was injured before the law went into effect was surprised when her suit was thrown out of court. She hadn't realized abortion hadn't become legal until July 1.
New York abortionists were ready. Health officials were not.
The fallout wasn't pretty. With far more abortionists than officials to supervise them, the most egregious practices went unremarked. Saline abortions, which can be deadly to mothers even when performed in a hospital under careful monitoring, were being performed on an outpatient basis. Other abortionists, such as erstwhile criminal abortionist Jesse Ketchum, were doing hysterotomy abortions -- major abdominal surgery -- in their offices. Not surprisingly, women paid with their lives.
Despite this dismal beginning, enthusiasm for legalization continued unabated in many circles. Bernard Nathanson had his staff at CRASH (Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health) compile their statistics on complications recorded in patient charts. Never mind that the charts were known to be incomplete and inaccurate; what mattered was "proving" that freestanding clinics could do "safe" abortions. Abortion enthusiasts used Nathanson's tainted numbers to convince the Supreme Court that the picture was rosy. The dead women, of course, were not deemed worthy of mention.
New York's chaotic, grim years of legalized pre-Roe abortion paved the way for the current regime of unsupervised, marginally regulated abortion mills and the carnage they produce. In a way, all the infertility, and the post-abortion trauma, all the orphaned children and grieving families of women killed by legalized abortion in the United States, have their beginning in Constance E. Cook's misplaced faith in abortionists. For some reason, she thought that taking away the risk of prison would make them better doctors.
Time has proved her dead wrong.
So as abortion enthusiasts mark Constance Cook's passing, I'd like to remember some of the women who went into early graves thanks to the supposedly safe, legal abortions she made so readily available beginning July 1, 1970:
- Pearl Schweir, age 42: July 6
- "Judy" Roe, age 42: July 12
- Carmen Rodriguez, age 31: July 19
- Barbara Riley, age 23: July 20, 1970
- "Lori" Roe, age 17
- "Amanda" Roe, age 19: September 22
- Maria Ortega, age 23: October 10
- "Kimberly" Roe, age 25: December 23
- "Amy" Roe, age 35: January 2
- "Andrea" Roe, age 26: January 20
- "Roseanne" Roe, age 26: February 27
- "Sandra" Roe, age 18: April 18
- "Anita" Roe, age 23: May 12
- Margaret Smith, age 25: June 16
- "Annie" Roe, age 44: June 24
- "Audrey" Roe: July 1
- "Vicki" Roe, age 26: August 17
- "April" Roe, age 17: August 22
- "Barbara" Roe, age 35: September 23
- "Becky" Roe, age 18: October 5
- "Tammy" Roe, age 33: October 13
- Carole Schaner, age 37: October 20
- "Beth" Roe, age 23: December 29
- "Colleen" Roe, age 21: March 8
- "Connie" Roe, age 31: March 8
- "Julie" Roe, age 14: April 16
- "Robin" Roe, age 21: May 4
- "Roxanne" Roe, age 17: May 13
- "Danielle" Roe, age 18: May 17
- "Sara" Roe, age 20: June 18
And the women who have gone to their deaths since then, thinking that their abortions, being legal, were perfectly safe.
Now, some of you will argue that far more women would have died under the old, horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad "back alley butcher" abortions. You're failing to take into account the impact of legalized abortion on maternal mortality: Diddly/Squat.
What changed was the doctors were no longer in danger of prison for injuring or killing their abortion patients. We can look to Jesse Ketchum, as mentioned above, to see what a dubious improvement that was. Who did abortions didn't change. The nature of abortion didn't change. What changed is that women's deaths were no longer treated like intolerable tragedies. They became something to shrug off with a muttered comment that all surgery has risks.
Imagine what would have happened if, instead of enshrining abortion as a good, a right, something to embrace, people like Constance Cook and other abortion supporters had done what Mary Calderone had been pushing for at the Planned Parenthood conference in 1955 -- finding out why women were seeking abortions and finding ways to address their concerns as a public health problem, rather than as an excuse to simply abort them. Imagine if instead of enshrining abortion, Constance Cook and others like her had pushed for such data collection, and for public policy that would instead enshrine confidential help. Real help, not the pseudo-help of a dead baby.
The self-proclaimed champions of women could have aimed for more of this:
And they didn't.
Instead of taking the existing trend of fewer and fewer abortion deaths every year and improving it by working to eliminate abortion, Constance Cook choose to go for an illusory "solution" to the abortion mortality problem: re-classify the women's deaths as just the ordinary risks of surgery, rather than as evidence that the woman had been wronged.
So, on January 20, 2009, Constance E. Cook died. And she is best remembered for something she did in 1970. Something that divided the country. Something that immeasurably cheapened not only unborn babies' lives, but their mothers' lives as well.
So let us mark a bit belatedly one other death:
For more abortion deaths, visit the Cemetery of Choice:
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