Eighteen-year-old Sylvia Moore underwent a safe and legal abortion at the hands of Arnold Bickham on New Year's Eve of 1986. She was in the second trimester of her pregnancy, but Bickham used a suction technique suitable for a first-trimester pregnancy. After the abortion, Bickham gave Sylvia repeated injections of Demerol because she was reporting severe abdominal cramps.
According to Sylvia's mother, Sylvia was bleeding, weak, and unable to walk. When Sylvia tried to get to her feet and collapsed, Bickham called her "lazy," put her in a wheelchair, and physically ejected her from his Chicago clinic.
Sylvia's mother took her to a nearby hospital, where staff tried in vain to save Sylvia, who had arrived with no pulse and no blood pressure. An emergency hysterectomy was done to remove her lacerated uterus, which still had a plastic instrument embedded in it. The instrument was embedded in a 6.5 cm laceration, and Sylvia also had a 2.2 cm laceration of her vagina. Sylvia bled to death.
Bickham (pictured) claimed that he "didn't think there was anything wrong" with Sylvia, and said that he'd merely been helping her with the wheelchair. He blamed Sylvia's death on the hospital, saying, "They were successful in repairing the damage done in the abortion, but in doing that, they perforated an artery causing there to be blood loss in the chest cavity. That was something she was not able to survive." The autopsy report, however, noted the chest tube incision but noted "lungs are well expanded and the pleural cavities are free of fluid and adhesions." An attorney with the Department of Professional Regulation said, "This patient would never have been allowed to leave Bickham's clinic with her mother.
The postmortum report said: "The circumstances of injury, review of the Medical records, the findings at autopsy examination, and subsequent investigation of the circumstances of the case provide evidence of gross negligence and abandonment on the part of the original treating physician. In consideration of the above, the manner of death is determined to be Homicide." Had Bickham pulled such a stunt in 1886, he'd have been prosecuted for this homicide. But in the more enlightened, woman-centered post-Roe era, such things simply aren't done. Bickham faced no criminal charges whatsoever for Sylvia's death. (Though he did later face criminal charges for practicing medicine and dispensing prescription medications without a license, albeit without killing anybody. Evidently in our enlightened day it's a far more grave matter to be guilty of a lapse of regulation than it is to kill a teenage girl.)
The suit filed by Sylvia's survivors noted that Bickahm had failed to perform an ultrasound, and failed to have adequate staff or equipment. The specimen of abortion tissue sent from clinic contained segments of placental tissue, umbilical cord, and fetal intestinal parts and liver.
Sylvia left one child motherless.
Those who tsk-tsk over illegal abortion deaths and insist that had those abortions only been legal, the woman would never have been abandoned by her abortionist without care for her well-being might do well to remember Sylvia, shoved out the door in a wheelchair to die. Or Gracealynn Harris or Sharon Hamplton, also too weak to walk, also shoved out the door in wheelchairs and sent home to die. Taking away the fear that screwing up would land them in the hoosegow evidently didn't do much to motivate abortionists to provide adequate care to their patients. It certainly didn't motivate Benjamin Munson, Milan Vuitch or Jesse Ketchum, each of whom had managed to keep his nose fairly clean as a criminal abortionist, only to kill two patients apiece after legalization lowered the stakes in their minds.
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