On July 29, 1949, Dorothy Martin went to the home of P.D. Beigun for an abortion. Dorothy, with the assistance of a man named Virgil Echols, had vistied Beigun a few days earlier to make the arrangements. About 15 minutes after the abortion began, Dorothy lost consciousness. To their credit, Beigun and Echols called an ambulance, as well as police, before concocting their cover-up story.
When the police arrived, Dorothy was dead. The next day an autopsy revealed that Dorothy's cervix and uterus had been damaged, and that Dorothy had gone into shock and died within a few minutes of her injury. Dorothy had been in good health, with no abnormalities of her heart, lungs, or kidneys and no history of fainting. The fetus, which appeared to be about three to four months of gestation, was removed, along with Dorothy's damaged uterus, to be presented as evidence of Dorothy's pregnancy, gestational state, and injuries. In trial, it came out that Echols had previously brought his own wife to Beigun for an abortion, and she had nearly died.
During the 1940s, while abortion was still illegal, there was a massive drop in maternal mortality from abortion. Most researches attribute this plunge to the development of blood transfusion techniques and the introduction of antibiotics. Learn more here.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion
Even though advances in medicine had reduced abortion deaths significantly even prior to legalization, women continue to die, often due to sloppy abortion practices.
Twenty-six-year-old Yvette Poteat, for example, had an abortion performed by Dr. Marion D. Dorn Jr. at The Ladies Clinic in Charleston, South Carolina on July 16, 1985. A lawsuit filed by her surviving mother and sister says that Dorn did not examine the tissue he removed from Yvette's uterus, and did not notify Yvette that the lab report showed no fetal or placental tissue in the specimen. Early in the morning of July 29, Yvette collapsed at home. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital. She went into cardiac arrest due to a ruptured ectopic pregnancy that both Dorn and the hospital staff had failed to diagnose, and was pronounced dead 6:15 a.m.