Twenty-six-year-old Moris Helen Herron went to Bakersfield, California abortionist William D. Stanley for a tubal ligation in October of 1983. When Stanley examined Helen, he informed her that she was pregnant and asked if she wanted him to perform a safe, legal abortion when he did the tubal ligation. Helen consented, and on October 23, Stanley operated on her. After Helen went home, she suffered weakness, vomiting, and severe pain. She called Stanley, who instructed her to take a laxative.
Helen developed a high fever, and died on November 3. An autopsy found feces and feculent fluid in Helen's abdominal cavity from a hole in her intestines. Helen's mother, Inez Herron, sued Stanley on behalf of her two surviving children, and Stanley settled out of court for $200,000.
When a local pro-life group wrote to Stanley to chastise him for his treatment of Helen, he wrote back, saying, "Elective abortion refers to termination of a live viable pregnancy upon the request of the mother. I have never performed this service or even offered it." He claimed that he was merely performing a D&C on Helen after a miscarriage.