Benjamin Munson was tried for manslaughter in the abortion death of 28-year-old Linda Padfield in 1973. Munson had performed the safe and legal abortion on Linda on June 15 at his South Dakota abortion facility. He discharged her, and she later was hospitalized. She finally died of massive infection on June 18.
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, 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.
For the benefit of those readers who happen to be Tlaloc, here's one where I think the jury had their heads right up their asses -- just like the Tiller jury. As the prosecutor said, "You take a three-inch leg off something, you have to know that there's more in there than just the leg." Munson left more of the fetus in Linda's body than he took out. And it wasn't like this was a tiny first-trimester fetus that gets pureed in the process of being removed, where it might be tough to tell if a part you can't find in the petri dish is still in the uterus, or was shredded beyond recognition while being removed. Given the condition and age of Linda's fetus, this was a D&E abortion, where you reach in and grab parts and pull them off. If you've pulled off one arm and one leg, logic tells you there's still another arm and another leg in there. If you only get a chunk of skull and torso, logic tells you there's got to be more of the skull and torso still in there. Munson had to have known he was leaving more fetus in there than he was taking out. And he had to have known he'd taken off enough of the fetus that it was quite dead and going to rot, with the attendant risk to Linda of infection and hemorrhage.
What reason could Munson have had for leaving the bulk of the mutilated fetus in Linda's uterus? It does say in every text and article about performing abortions that you're supposed to make sure you get the entire fetus, along with all of the placenta, out of the uterus, because of the risk of potentially fatal infection and hemorrhage, so this isn't like Tiller where there's really no book that specifically says, "Three days in a motel room with a rotting fetus in your uterus isn't recommended for women suffering X complication of pregnancy." The books were all on the prosecutor's side here. The medical journals were all on the prosecutor's side here. But evidently Munson got a jury of people disposed to forgive reckless endangerment. Maybe they were habitual drunk drivers themselves and figured it'd be bad karma to slap somebody else for being reckless with somebody else's life. Maybe they were all, like Tlaloc, inclined to figure that whatever an abortionist does, since he's an abortionist he must have had a very good reason for doing it. Whatever the case, their failure to hold Munson accountable for what he did to Linda Padfield left him free to kill Yvonne Mesteth. Nice work, jurors.
On another tack, Munson is the third former criminal abortionist I've learned of who had a clean record -- no patient deaths -- as a criminal abortionist, only to go on to kill two patients in his legal practice. The others are Milan Vuitch (Georgianna English and Wilma Harris) and Jesse Ketchum (Margaret Smith and Carole Schaner).
For more abortion deaths, visit the Cemetery of Choice:
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