Abortion Provider Appreciation Day: Dr. Doug Laube of Wisconsin
Laube first claims -- absurdly so -- that abortion was "mainstream" immediately after Roe. Which is totally why all those dedicated abortion facilities sprung up like mushrooms everywhere.
Dr. Laube provided some gruesome insights: pre-legalization, there were entire wards in some inner-city hospitals that were dedicated to women who had received illegal abortions, because so many women came in suffering complications. Of the women who populated those wards, 50% died.
The "entire wards full of women" claim is a hoary one. I've yet to see any actual substantiating of that. It just gets repeated until it's presumed to be true.
Laube then ups the ante on claims of mortality, far beyond the long-discredited claim of "5,000 - 10,000 deaths a year" (which would have meant that roughly 20% of all women who died before Roe were dying from botched abortions). Laube claims that these massive septic abortion wards had a 50% mortality rate. Were this claim true, most inner cities would have very few women who survived to middle age and orphaned urchins would have been roaming the streets in bands.
For a better look at what the obstetric wards really looked like, I'll actually turn to a contemporary source: Septic Abortion, by Ann B. Barnes MD and Howard Ulfelder MD. These two doctors reviewed 677 "abortion cases" treated at Vincent Memorial Hospital (the Gynecological Service of Massachusetts General) from 1957 - 1962. "Abortion" is a medical term indicating that the pregnancy ended -- whether on its own or through somebody's deliberate action -- prior to the 24th week of pregnancy. So their total case load of women who either miscarried or submitted to induced abortion was about 113 per year. That would be about one admission every three days. Fourteen percent of these cases, or about 16 per year, were septic. That's about one every 23 days. The typical stay for a septic abortion patient (miscarriage or induced) was five and a half days. So it probably would have been rare for Massachusetts General Hospital to even have two septic cases on the ward at the same time, much less an entire ward full of septic abortion patients. And far from the 50% mortality rate reported by Dr. Laube, Massachusetts General was seeing a mortality rate of "up to 3%" among the septic patients.
One quarter of the patients (29 per year of all abortion cases, 4 of all septic cases) "admitted some attempt to induce the abortion." The authors don't indicate what constituted an attempt to abort, aside from the specific case histories. Other cases might simply have involved hot baths, running up and down the stairs, taking castor oil, drinking parsley tea, or such. I'd be interested in knowing.
Of the septic abortion patients, 72 of them were "never dangerously ill." Though the ones that were dangerously ill were indeed frighteningly ill:
One case was described involving an unmarried 21-year-old who was 12 weeks pregnant. She had gone to an abortionist who had used a catheter and wire. She developed fever and chills, nausea and vomiting, and pain. When she reported to the hospital, she had a fever of 103 and a pulse of 130. Her abdomen was rigid and tender, and she had no bowel sounds. She was treated with medications and surgery, discharged at 17 days, returned even sicker, for more care. Eventually a hysterectomy fixed the problem. She was, however, hospitalized for a total of 89 days. So evidently this woman and whatever other patient might be admitted for a few days during her stay constituted "an entire ward", by Dr. Laube's standards.
Another woman, 25 years old and also 12 weeks pregnant, was the first verified soap-and-bleach douche case I've encountered in 25 years of research. She was sick with fever and chills, and hadn't expelled the baby. After she was partially stabilized, she expelled her 3-month baby, along with the placenta, but she had a poor course afterward and eventually died.
Another woman, 21 years old and married, attempted a home abortion with a boiled slippery elm stick, a spoon handle, and a hot-water douche. She came to the hospital deathly ill and at one point had to be resuscitated. However, she eventually recovered and was discharged 12 days after surgery to complete the abortion.
Another woman, 20 years old, admitted in a coma and with "profuse vaginal bleeding". She'd attempted an abortion of her 5-month fetus with soap, bleach, and water. She collapsed immediately, and whoever was with her pounded on her chest to get her heart starting again, then brought her to the hospital. Aggressive treatment did nothing to improve her condition, though she did expel a necrotic fetus. She died five days after admission. This marks only the second soap and bleach abortion I've encountered.
The authors indicated that soap-and-bleach abortions (at least if they resulted in hospitalization) were usually fatal. This may account for the perception of soap-and-bleach abortions as being common, since they're so much more likely to result in mortality.
While the gruesome illnesses of the patients with complicated cases are indeed wretched, and the deaths tragic, what these doctors actually observed in six years at a city hospital contrasts sharply with Dr. Laube's account -- or, indeed, with the standard-issue "septic abortion ward" stories.
Laube also goes off in bold new directions in his tales of woe:
Dr. Laube himself has experienced some of that targeting. One amazing story from the mid-1980s involves a group of anti-abortion protesters battering down the door of a clinic with a telephone pole while he was working there. The good doctor was in the middle of performing a procedure at the time, but fortunately security showed up and halted the protesters trickling into the clinic before they got through the lobby.
This is a creative new story.
This guy missed his calling. He should be writing melodramatic novels.
(See also Septic Abortion: Crisis Care, from the 1966 American Journal of Nursing, in which a nurse reports many abortion cases in Los Angeles, and says that such cases typically end up on the wards of hospitals for the indigent -- but there's no mention of whole wards of such women, nor of a 50% mortality rate. This July 1968 article, "The Aggressive Management of Septic Abortion", reported 322 cases of "septic abortion" -- with no indication that these are necessarily criminal abortion cases rather than miscarriages -- during a 6 year period (1960-1966) at Newark City Hospital. TWO of those women died (less than 1%, a far cry from a 50% mortality rate as claimed by Laube). The only mention at all of criminal abortion is in dismissing an old protocol of waiting 12-24 hours before performing a curettage on criminal abortion patients.)