Saturday, January 22, 2011

Typical and atypical anniversaries today

  • On January 22, 1980, Vanessa Preston, the 22-year-old wife of a local minister, went with her husband and small son to Fairmount Clinic in Dallas. There, National Abortion Federation member Curtis Boyd performed a dilaton and extraction abortion on her. During the abortion, Vanessa went into a grand mal siezure and then into cardiac arrest. Vanessa's death stands out because to the credit of Boyd and the Fairmount staff, emergency procedures were immediately instituted. An ambulance was summoned, and Boyd and a nurse performed CPR and got Vanessa's heart to beat again. But two factors, unbeknownst to Boyd and his staff, came together to cause Vanessa's death. Vanessa had suffered a small tear in her liver from the CPR -- a perfectly ordinary injury in properly performed CPR -- and a small amount of fetal tissue in her blood had caused a clotting disorder. Vanessa bled to death through the undiagnosed liver laceration. Boyd, to his credit, reported Vanessa's death to the Centers for Disease Control. He also wrote a medical journal article about her death, warning other abortionists that this dangerous clotting disorder could occur during second-trimester evacuation abortions.

  • Moving backward in time, the next death is more typical. On January 22, 1972, 26-year-old Kathryn Strong died from hemorrhage and shock due to a uterine perforation she'd suffered during an abortion performed the day before at Civic Center Hospital in Oakland California. The abortion was performed by Dr. Harold Van Maren. Kathryn left a three-year-old son motherless.

  • As we move further into the past, we have an abortion death that's a mix of the typical and the atypical. On January 22, 1925, 17-year-old Jean Cohen died at Chicago's Montrose Hospital from an abortion performed earlier that day. On January 31, Louise Hagenow was arrested in Jean's death. Howover, Hagenow, though a known abortionist, was cleared in Jean's death. There were a number of deaths in Chicago attributed to either Hagenow. The deaths include Lottie Lowy, Bridget Masterson, Nina H. Pierce, Mary Moorehead, Elizabeth Welter, and Marie Hicht. Jean's death is typical in that her abortion was performed by a doctor, but atypical in that her doctor was repeatedly freed to kill again; I believe this might be linked to Chicago politics that were friendly to the abortionists' cause.

  • The final death is atypical, but not strikingly so. On January 22, 1900, Mrs. Barbara Shelgren, age 25, died at Augustana Hospital in Chicago of an abortion performed there that day. Paulina Bechtel, identified as a midwife, was arrested and held by Coroner's Jury and indicted of homicide by a grand jury, but the case was thrown out by Judge Holdom. Bechtel had been implicated in the abortion death of Ida Henry in 1899, but was identified as a physician in that case. According to Leslie Reagan in When Abortion Was a Crime, female physicians were often misidentified as midwives by the press when they were arrested for abortion charges, so I think it likely Bechtel was actually a physician. If she indeed was merely a midwife, this was unusual, since most pre-Roe abortions were performed by doctors -- but abortions by midwives were still more common than abortions by untrained people.

    For more abortion deaths, visit the Cemetery of Choice:

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