On August 10, 1917, 29-year-old Emelia Gorman died at Chicago's St. Mary's Hospital from a criminal abortion perpetrated that day by Dr. Anna Sorenson. Although Sorenson was indicted by a Grand Jury on September 1, she remained free to perform fatal abortions on Mrs. M. Linstrom in November and Margaret Crowe in January of the following year. Sorenson was finally arrested on January 15, and her killing spree came to an end when she herself died in prison while awaiting trial.
So, sadly, merely criminalizing abortion won't be enough to protect women from quackery unless we tighten the laws to make sure the quacks are quickly identified and locked up for life. They're incorrigible.
Let's jump ahead to the safe-n-legal days.
for Reproductive and Sexual Health ("CRASH") was the model abortion
clinic -- a published review of their earliest patient records,
published by Bernard Nathanson, played a key role in "proving the safety
of legal outpatient abortion."
August 10, 1988, 19-year-old K.B. (due to confidentiality, the public
record documents do not give the patient's name) was given anesthesia
for a safe, legal
14-week abortion. Since Life Dynamics calls her "Kelly" on their
"Blackmun Wall" of women killed by abortion, I will refer to her as
Kelly as well.
after the procedure, she showed signs of distress, but emergency
measures were not instituted for almost an hour. Kelly was transported
to Cabrini Medical Center where she was pronounced dead from
complications of anesthesia. After
Kelly's death, the health department investigated and found a mystery:
Kelly's chart listed her post-operative condition as "pink, responsive,
alert," even though she had gone into full cardio-respiratory arrest by
the time indicated on the assessment. They learned that the note had
been entered into the chart before the abortion was even performed.
inspectors noted that CRASH "did not employ proper monitoring equipment
or procedures," "had no working EKG machine," and didn't have a cardiac
defibrillator. They noted that no one on staff was qualified to perform
CPR. No one on staff was qualified to administer anesthesia, and they
did not use proper procedures or equipment. Anesthesia was administered
"by eye," with no means of accurately measuring the dose. Dosage was
estimated to be twice that recommended in the procedure manual.
operating rooms were found to be ill-lit, and there was no soap or
paper towels at the scrub sink. The scrub sinks were stained, the walls
and floors dirty, trash was stored in the scrub room. There were red
make-up stains on the oxygen masks and nitrous oxide masks, dusty tubing
on the suction machines, and blood on the wheels of the operating
had no documentation verifying the credentials or qualifications of
medical director David Gluck. Gluck had been previously convicted of
felony charges related to the sale of 48,000 Diluadid tablets to pay off
gambling debts. His license had actually been revoked two months before
K.B.'s death, but had been restored by judicial stay.
was no evidence at the investigation two weeks after Kelly's death that
Gluck had reviewed her chart, or the charts of 18 other patients
identified as having suffered complications.
The state closed CRASH for 60 days, but it never re-opened. Dr. Gluck went on to perform the fatal abortion on Alerte Desanges in 1994.
Clearly, legalization didn't do anything to keep quacks from practicing. It just reduced the intensity of their legal headaches when they killed patients.