Friday, June 29, 2012

1906 & 1988: Equally Dead

Johanna Faulner, a 40-year-old German immigrant, died June 29, 1906, at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Chicago, from complications of an abortion performed on June 24. Midwife Emily Redeniske was arrested in the death.

Dawn Mendoza underwent a safe, legal abortion at the hands of Edward Rubin at Women's Medical Pavilion in Dobbs Ferry, New York, on June 29, 1988. Dawn, a 28-year-old mother of two, was 22 weeks pregnant. Her brother, who accompanied her, was instructed to wait in a grassy park across the street, and to come back for her at 4 p.m. He returned, as instructed, and was told that Dawn wasn't ready to leave yet, to return in half an hour. When he came back at 5:30, staff told him that his sister was dead. An investigation revealed that after the abortion, Dawn started screaming and gasping for breath. Her blood pressure fell and she stopped breathing. Staff tried unsuccessfully to revive her, but did not call an ambulance. The medical examiner determined that she had died from amniotic fluid embolism, as evidenced by particles of placenta and amniotic fluid in her lungs. This foreign matter in her bloodstream also caused disseminatedintravascular  coaglopathy, a blood clotting problem.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

1900: Fatal Effort by Chicago Midwife

On June 28, 1900, Mrs. Andre Jorgenson died on the scene from an illegal abortion.

Mrs. Anna Pihlgren, whose occupation is listed as nurse or midwife, was arrested and held by the Coroner's Jury. Andre Pihlgren was held as an accessory.

Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good. For more about abortion and abortion deaths in the first years of the 20th century, seeAbortion Deaths 1900-1909.
external image Illegals.png

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

1929: Two Chicago Docs, One Dead Patient

On June 24, 1929, 19-year-old homemaker Winifred Mary Garver underwent an abortion at the office of Dr. Anna Schultz, aka Rollins. Schultz was assisted by Dr. James White. Winifred died on June 27 at Woodlawn Hospital. Winifred was white; both her abortionist and the assistant were Black. On June 27, both physicians were held by the coroner. Schultz was indicted for felony murder by a grand jury on October 6, 1930.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Woman's Death Hightlights Abortion Rights Priorities

Pamela Colson, age 31, was 12 weeks pregnant when friends drive her to Women's Medical Services in Pensacola, Florida, for a safe and legal abortion June 26, 1994.

Pamela bled heavily during the drive home. According to her friends, Pamela became unresponsive, so they stopped at a motel. Two passers-by did CPR while Pamela's friends called for an ambulance. Pamela was taken to a hospital where she died after an emergency hysterectomy.

Her autopsy showed: bloodstained fluid in chest and peritoneal space, and "extensive hematoma formation in the pelvic area with the peritoneum denuded from the left gutter area caudually." The surgeon who performed an emergency hysterectomy, trying to save Pamela's life, had removed her uterus at the site of the laceration "so that the laceration was a portion of the incision made to remove the uterus." Her uterus showed extensive hemorrhage and blood clots. Her uterine artery was also injured. Several of Pamela's ribs were fractured, apparently during attempts to resuscitate her; this is common in even properly performed CPR.

The cause of death was given as "irreversible shock from blood loss due to a perforated uterus occurring at the time of an elective abortion."

William Keene was tentatively identified as having performed the abortion.

Pamela's fatal abortion was performed at the clinic where abortionist David Gunn was shot dead. I find it interesting that the abortion rights movement, supposedly driven by concern for women's lives, focuses only on the death of David Gunn but ignores the inexcusable quackery that cost Pamela her life.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Two Historic Abortion Deaths

On June 13, 1882, Ruth Phillips delivered stillborn twins. She was near death herself. A few days later she made a shocking deathbed statement to her sisters: she said that their father was the father of the twins, and that he had used instruments on her to cause the abortion that killed the twins and was soon to take her own life. Ruth died on June 25, and was buried on the 25th. An autopsy was performed, which evidently corroborated the girl's deathbed statement, since her father, James T. Phillips, was arrested. There was such outrage in the community that Phillips was in danger of being lynched.

On June 25, 1911, 20-year-old Mrs. Anna L. Mueller died from a criminal abortion performed by Dr. George Lotz. Lotz was arrested July 5. He was indicted for felony murder. There is no record that he served time for the crime, but Leslie Reagan indicates that he was expelled from the Chicago Medical Society after admitting guilt in Anna's death.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pre and Post Roe, Both Equally Dead

On June 20 or 24, 1908, 36-year-old Lillie O'Neill died in Dr. Albert C. Davis's Chicago office from complications of an abortion performed June 20. Davis was acquitted for reasons not given in the source document. A midwife named Cornelia Meyers was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to Joliet.
Lillie's abortion was typical in that it was involved medical professionals, including a physician.

"Annie" traveled from New Jersey to New York to avail herself of the new law for a first-trimester abortion on June 24, 1971. Shortly after she was given anesthesia, Annie went into cardiac arrest, and attempts to revive her failed. She left behind three children.

We can see that starting in the 1940s, while abortion was still illegal, there was a massive drop in maternal mortality from abortion. The death toll fell from 1,407 in 1940, to 744 in 1945, to 263 in 1950. Most researches attribute this plunge to the development of blood transfusion techniques and the introduction of antibiotics. And as you can see from the graph below, the fall in abortion deaths was in place long before legalization. Legalization did nothing to change the number of deaths each year; the trend had been in place for decades. Learn more here.
external image Abortion+Deaths+Since+1940.jpg

Friday, June 22, 2012

1928 & 1996: Equally Dead

On June 22, 1928, 31-year-old Rose Hannover died at the office of Dr. Lester I. Ofner from complications of an abortion performed there that day. Ofner was held by the coroner on July 28. On November 28, he was acquitted. The source documents do not indicate why, so we have no way of knowing if he was wrongly identified by the coroner, if the prosecution screwed up, or if the way the law was written made getting a conviction difficult.

Prolifers pray outside the Hillcrest
clinic where Kelly died.
We know more about the death of 32-year-old Kelly Morse of Vermont, who had traveled with her husband to Hillcrest Women's Medical Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for an abortion on June 19, 1996. Dr. Delhi Elmore Thweatt, Jr., performed the abortion.Five days earlier, Kelly had come to Hillcrest and had been evaluated by Dr. Earl McLeod, who had diagnosed her as eight weeks pregnant. Because the waiting room of the clinic was so crowded, Kelly's husband waited for her outside.

Even though Kelly had notified Hillcrest staff that she had asthma and was allergic to the "caine" medications, including Lidocaine, Thweatt administered 12 cc's of 1 percent Lidocaine to Kelly at about 11 a.m. Kelly immediately had trouble breathing. A licensed practical nurse got Kelly's inhaler from her purse and helped her to use it, but Kelly reported that it was not helping. She became very agitated because of her difficulty in drawing breath. Thweatt continued with the abortion, completing it in about four minutes, and spent some time providing ineffectual care to Kelly before having an ambulance summoned.

"No one started an IV. No respiration rate was recorded, no pulse was checked and no blood pressure was measured. No EKG was applied. No cardiac monitoring was conducted. No pulse oximeter was applied. No intubation or emergency tracheotomy was performed. No oxygen was administered. Kelly continued to agitate in fear, desperately gasping for air, and remained blue in color. Defendant Thweatt just stood there with a stethoscope in hand and listened to Kelly's breathing and wheezing progressively worsen."

"As Plaintiff choked and gasped for air, none of the Defendants, took steps to immediately dispatch an ambulance. In fact, the ambulance was not summoned until 11:24 a.m., or 10 minutes after Plaintiff violently choked, gasped, wheezed, and discolored to a blue-black appearance from respiratory arrest and hypoxia."

Paramedics arrived within five minutes of the call, just as a staff member was running outside to summon Kelly's husband. Kelly's husband reported that he went in with the ambulance crew to find his wife, naked and blue-black from lack of oxygen, lying on a table that was halfway out of the examination room into the hallway. The paramedics put a breathing tube into Kelly, properly administered medications, and performed CPR as they transported Kelly to nearby Polyclinic Medical Center, where she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. Her condition continued to deteriorate, and she was pronounced dead on June 22.

Court documents in the case indicate that Hillcrest advertised Thweatt as being a Board-certified ob/gyn, yet "Defendant Thweatt failed the Ob/Gyn Board certification examination not once, not twice, but on three consecutive attempts...Defendant Thweatt failed his Board certification exam even after a fourth attempt, following his deposition of July 27, 1997." The Pennsylvania Medical Board and Maryland Medical Board show no disciplinary actions against Thweatt, who lives in Maryland.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Two Deaths Half a Century Apart

On June 21, 1929, 25-year-old Fannie Shead, a native of Huntsville, Alabama, died from a criminal abortion performed that day by an unknown perpetrator. Interestingly, the coroner only recommended an arrest for "unintentional manslaughter," not the usual homicide by abortion. I wonder if this might be due to the fact that unlike the other victims of Chicago abortionists whose cases I've documented, Fannie Shead was Black. Oddly, the database lists a date a defendant was arrested -- August 10 -- but does not list a suspect.

Fast forward over half a century. Seventeen-year-old Deborah Ann Lozinski had languished for two months in a coma, hospitalized after a safe and legal abortion at Medical Care Center in Woodbridge, New Jersey.
On June 21, 1985, Deborah's parents filed suit against Dr. Scheininger, Dr. Sinha, and other staff for failing to properly screen and examine Deborah prior to her abortion. They also alleged that staff failed to properly monitor Deborah's vital signs during the abortion, failing to quickly detect and properly treat respiratory difficulty. As a result, Deborah suffered the brain damage that had caused her coma. Shortly after midnight on June 22, a hospital staffer checked on Deborah and found her dead; she evidently had died shortly before midnight.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

1929 & 1974: A "Back Alley Butcher" and an Icon of "Choice"

On June 20, 1929, 28-year-old Jennie Kuba died at Chicago hospital from an abortion performed there that day by midwife Mary Zwieniczak.Zwienczak was arrested July 13. The coroner also recommended the arrest of Dr. Joseph Mienczak, who assisted Zwieniczak, as an accessory.

I don't have enough information about Jennie's death to know if it involved the same degree of quackery exhibited by prochoice hero Milan Vuitch (pictured) over a half-century later. On June 15, 1974, seventeen-year-old Wilma Harris of West Virginia went to Vuitch's Laurel Clinic for a safe and abortion. Five days later, she was dead. Although the abortion was done at around 2:00 PM, Vuitch didn't transfer Wilma to a properly equipped hospital until after midnight. Wilma's family sued, claiming that Vuitch and his staff had allowed Wilma to lapse into a coma and lie unattended for 12 hours before transferring her to the hospital. The suit also claimed that Vuitch and his staff falsified records to cover their tracks.  The family won a judgment on December 23, 1976, but the settlement was sealed by court order. Georgianna English also died after an abortion perpetrated by Vuitch.

Vuitch isn't the only abortionist who kept his nose clean as a criminal abortionist, only to kill two patients after legalization. Jesse Ketchum managed to kill Margaret Smith and Carole Schaner in a four-month period after New York put out a welcome mat for carpetbagging abortionists in 1970. Benjamin Munson of South Dakota killed Linda Padfield and Yvonne Mesteth.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Abortion History: Three Dead Patients, Two Dead Doctors

Today's anniversaries resulted in the deaths of two physicians and three patients.

On June 19, 1908, Philadelphia police indicated, 27-year-old Elizabeth "Bess" Gies died under the care of Dr. William H. Wilson (pictured). Police concluded that she died from an illegal abortion he performed on her. Bess had secretly married Fred Gies under a false name to keep from losing her teaching job, which is clearly also the reason she sought an abortion. Wilson later was poisoned, and police believed, but could  not prove, that Fred had killed him as revenge for the death of his beloved wife.


On June 19, 1922, homemaker Veronica Maslanka, a 26-year-old Polish immigrant, died in her Chicago home from complications of an abortion performed there that day. The coroner identified midwife Mary Pesova as the person responsible for Veronica's death.

On June 18, 1928, 20-year-old Anna Mae Smith underwent an abortion at the Chicago office of Dr. George F. Slater. The next day, Anna died there from complications. Dr. Slater, upon learning of Anna Mae's death, committed suicide at his home by taking poison.

Of course, I do not advocate revenge killing, nor suicide. I will note, however, that when abortion was illegal, killing a patient was taken much more seriously than it is now. And though women continue to die, I've not encountered a single story of a revenge killing of a legal abortionist or of an abortionist -- whether operating legally or not -- committing suicide after a patient death. It seems to me that the greatest beneficiaries of legalization were not the women, but the abortionists.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Anniversaries from 1891, 1914, and 1973.

May E. Parmenter's memorial at Find-a-Grave includes an 1891 clipping that reads: Died on Her Wedding Day. Athol, Mass., June 19. -- Miss May Parmenter, one of Athol's prettiest and brightest girls, was to have been married yesterday to Leroy Felton, a well-known young man of Orange. on the morning of the wedding she was taken violently ill, and died during the afternoon. It now transpires that Miss Parmenter was the victim of malpractice, performed by a well-known physician. She was urged to take the step by a very near relative, against the wishes of her intended husband.

On June 18, 1914, 39-year-old Bridget Murphy died at Post Graduate Hospital in Chicago from an abortion performed that day by an unknown perpetrator.  
Benjamin Munson was tried for manslaughter in the abortion death of 28-year-old Linda Padfield in 1973. Munson had performed the safe and legal abortion on Linda on June 15 at his South Dakota abortion facility. He discharged her, and she later was hospitalized. She finally died of massive infection on June 18. A pathologist found the remains of a five-month fetus in Linda's uterus, missing a leg, arm, part of its skull and part of its torso. Munson later became a member of the National Abortion Federation (NAF). In 1985, he sent a teenage patient, Yvonne Mesteth, home with retained tissue. She, like Linda Padfield, died of infection. Munson is the third former criminal abortionist I've learned of who had a clean record -- no patient deaths -- as a criminal abortionist, only to go on to kill two patients in his legal practice. The others are Milan Vuitch (Georgianna English and Wilma Harris) and Jesse Ketchum (Margaret Smith and Carole Schaner).

As you can see from the graph below, abortion deaths were falling dramatically before legalization. This steep fall had been in place for decades. To argue that legalization lowered abortion mortality simply isn't supported by the data. The examples of Munson, Ketchum, and Vuitch actually show that many erstwhile criminal abortionists became careless after legalization removed their fear of arrest and prison.

external image Abortion+Deaths+Since+1960.jpg

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Chicago History: Two Typical Abortion Deaths

On June 17, 1913, 36-year-old Freda Englehard died in Chicago, at the scene of an abortion perpetrated that day by Dr. Joseph A. Meeks. Meeks was held for murder, and Mrs. Mollie Flaherty was held as an accessory, but the case never went to trial.


On June 17, 1918, 25-year-old Sophie Suida died at Chicago's St. Mary's Hospital from complications of an abortion perpetrated by Dr. L. D. Tucholska, who died at the county jail on June 28, before the case could come to trial.

Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good. In fact, due to improvements in addressing these problems, maternal mortality in general (and abortion mortality with it) fell dramatically in the 20th Century, decades before Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion across America.

For more information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.

external image MaternalMortality.gif

For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Women Continue to Die at Quacks' Hands

On June 16, 1910, Mrs. Paulina Sproc, a 35-year-old immigrant from Bohemia, died in a Chicago home from an abortion that had been performed on June 5. Dr. W. L. Orainger was held by the coroner's jury. The source document doesn't indicate that the case ever went to trial.

Twenty-five-year-old Margaret Smith traveled from Michigan to New York for a safe and legal abortion because she had been exposed to rubella. Her abortionist, Jesse Ketchum, had run a criminal abortion practice in Michigan, before carpetbagging to Buffalo when New York legalized abortion on demand. Ketchum performed a vaginal hysterotomy on Margaret at 10:30 the morning of June 16, 1971. Margaret was then left virtually unattended until her boyfriend returned at 2:00. He found Margaret unresponsive, and begged Ketchum and his staff to do something. Paramedics were summoned, but they were unable to revive Margaret. She was taken to a hospital across the street from Ketchum's office, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. Margaret's vagina had been sutured, but a laceration in her uterus and cervix had not been repaired. She had bled to death. Ketchum was charged with criminally negligent homicide in Margaret's death. Before his case went to trial, he performed a similar abortion on Carole Schaner of Ohio. Carol suffered similar injuries had bled to death in her motel room after Ketchum discharged her. Ketchum was convicted on October 26, 1973, despite the fact that renowned abortionist Milan Vuitch testified on his behalf. Vuitch himself, like Ketchum, had kept his nose clean as a criminal abortionist, then gone on to kill two legal abortion patients, Wilma Harris and Georgianna English. Benjamin Munson, likewise, had a clean record in his criminal abortionist then went on to kill two women in his supposedly safer legal practice -- Linda Padfield and Yvonne Mesteth.

Margaret Clodfelter was 19 years old when she had a safe and legal abortion at Richmond Medical Center For Women on June 2, 1989, performed by William Fitzhugh. After she was discharged from the clinic, Margaret had pain and bleeding. She called the facility to consult with them, but they did not tell her that she needed any further care.On June 4, she sought treatment at a hospital, where she was diagnosed with retained fetal tissue and a perforated uterus. She underwent a D&C. She developed infection, so doctors performed a hysterectomy. Their efforts were in vain. Margaret died on June 16, 1989, leaving behind a husband and a one-year-old son.

A 20-year-old Newark college student, identified in prolife sources as "Jane Doe of Newark," underwent a safe and legal abortion by Dr. Steven Berkman at Metropolitan Medical Associates on June 16, 1993. Jane reportedly felt dizzy in recovery. Berkman examined her, noted that she had a perforated uterus, and had her taken to a hospital by ambulance. She died in surgery, leaving her four-year-old son motherless.

Friday, June 15, 2012

1984: Mom Finds Teen Dead

Early on the morning of June 15, 1984, 14-year-old Germaine Newman's mother found her dead on the bathroom floor.

Just the day before, Germaine had undergone a second-trimester abortion performed by Dr. E. Wyman Garrett in Newark, New Jersey. She was 22 weeks pregnant.

After her abortion, Germaine had begun vomiting and suffered from abdominal pain and a high fever. During the night, the massive infection that was causing her symptoms killed her.

An autopsy found that Germaine's uterus had been punctured, and her abdomen was full of pus and adhesions.

When the New Jersey medical board investigated Dr. Garrett, they noted that he had illegally altered Germaine's medical records. Garrett argued that he was suffering from ''burnout syndrome,'' caused by performing more than 2,600 second-trimester abortions between 1982 and 1986.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Did Legalization Save Women?

Did legalizing abortion stop women from dying at the hands of quack abortionists? Read about these women, who died on this date, and decide.

In June of 1916, Rosie Kawera of Chicago asked a friend to go with her to visit Mrs. Wilhelmina Benn, a licensed midwife. Rosie was twenty-nine years old, mother of an eleven-month-old baby, and two months pregnant. She borrowed $10 from her brother and went to Mrs. Benn's. While her friend waited in the kitchen, Kawera went into the bedroom, where Mrs. Benn inserted what Kawera called "a little pipe." Mrs. Benn told Kawera to keep it in overnight and to phone whenever she got "sick." Rosie died on June 14.

On June 7, 1930, 27-year-old Grace Iorio underwent an illegal abortion in the Chicago home of midwife Stepina Pazkiewicz. On June 14, Grace died at her home. 

Eighteen-year-old newlywed Barbaralee Davis called a local women's group for a safe and legal abortion referral. They sent her to a member of the newly founded National Abortion Federation, Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois. After the abortion, performed June 14, 1977 by Hope Medical Director Hector Zavalos, Barbaralee's sister helped her, pale and bleeding, to the car. Barbaralee slept in the back seat the whole way home, approximately a two-hour trip. Her sister helped her to bed. When Barbaralee's sister checked on her several hours later, she was unresponsive. She was rushed to the Pickneyville hospital, where an emergency hysterectomy was attempted to save her life. Barbaralee died during the surgery, leaving one child motherless. The autopsy found the face and spinal column of Barbaralee's baby embedded in a hole in her uterus. Barbaralee had bled to death.
 
Rosario Bermeo, age 30, died following a safe and legal abortionperformed by Dr. Joseph B. Shapse at Prospect Hospital in New York June 14, 1983. Shapse contended he had no responsibility for actions of the certified nurse anesthetist, and no responsibility to monitor and evaluate Rosario's condition during and immediately after the abortion. Therefore, he said, he was not to blame for her death from respiratory and cardiac arrest.

Angela Hall, a 27-year-old mother of five, called to arrange a safe, legal abortion at Thomas Tucker's office in Alabama. One of Tucker's employees, Joy Davis, screened Angela and felt that she had risk factors that made abortion in an office setting unsafe. Joy got on the phone with Tucker and indicated that she felt that Angela should be referred to a hospital. Tucker told Davis that "we need the money" and ordered her to prep Angela, who was in the second trimester of pregnancy. Angela underwent the abortion on June 11, 1991, and started having difficulty breathing. Her blood pressure fell, setting off an alarm on a piece of monitoring equipment. Tucker told Davis to turn the alarm off because other patients could hear it. Angela was sent to a recovery room where she bled so heavily that Davis became alarmed and called an ambulance. Tucker swore at Davis when he learned of this, and he had her cancel the ambulance because they'd already sent a patient to the hospital that day. Angela continued to hemorrhage, and Davis continued to plead with Tucker to take action. Finally Tucker cursed at Davis, telling her to call the ambulance, and he left the building, leaving the untrained woman to cope alone with the critically injured patient. Angela was taken to the hospital, where she suffered respiratory failure, clotting, and sepsis. She died just before midnight June 14. It is interesting to note that in the publicity surrounding the lawsuit filed by Angela's family, Ron Fitzsimmons of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, among other prochoice groups, balked at efforts to close Tucker down, on the grounds that he was Alabama's only abortionist, and that even he was better than no abortionist at all.

Oriane Shevin, age 34, died of infection following off-label use of RU-486 for a safe and abortion in California in 2005. Oriane got the drugs at the Eve Surgical Center. She took the mifeprestone on June 9 and vaginally inserted the misoprostol on June 10. Both Christopher Dotson, M.D. and Josepha Seletz, M.D. are associated with the facility. Oriane was an attorney with two young children, ages 3 and 4. She had sickened three days after taking the drugs, suffering from severe pain and havy bleeding, and was rushed by ambulance to Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center, where she died on June 14 from severe metabolic acidosis and sepsis. Dotson has a spotted history. At the time of Oriane‘s abortion, Dotson had not yet completed eight years medical board probation for gross negligence and incompetence in causing the death of a patient. He had also worked at San Vicente Hospital, a notorious abortion mill that was bought out by Family Planning Associates Medical Group. San Vicente was where Sara Lint, Natalie Meyers, Joyce Ortenzio,Laniece Dorsey, and Mary Pena underwent their fatal abortions. Despite his appalling record, Dotson, through his Eve Surgical Center, is a member of the National Abortion Federation. 


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

1925: Two Docs, One Dead Patient

On June 13, 1925, 24-year-old Betty Fisher died in the Chicago office of doctors August Goetz and Henry Gautsen from an abortion performed that day. The doctors were acquitted on October 16. The source documents don't say why.

Betty's abortion was typical of criminal abortions in that it was attributed to a physician.

Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1920s.

During the first two thirds of the 20th Century, while abortion was still illegal, there was a massive drop in maternal mortality, including mortality from abortion. Most researches attribute this plunge to improvements in public health and hygiene, the development of blood transfusion techniques, and the introduction of antibiotics. Learn more here.
external image MaternalMortality.gif

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Two Criminal Anniversaries

On June 12, 1922, Louise Huse, 30-year-old wife of Carl Huse, died at Chicago's Mid West Hospital from a criminal abortion performed there that day. On June 16, midwife Agnes Tholl was arrested on the recommendation of the coroner.

In June of 1902, Irene Wengel traveled to Tampa, Florida, where she was met by her cousin, J. Carl Christian. Christian had arranged for her to stay at the home of Dr. Frederick N. Weightnovel for an abortion which proved fatal on June 12.

Yesterday's Anniversaries

Sorry I missed blogging yesterday:

  • Post, Emma Died: June 11, 1857 Age: 20, a sordid story
  • Scott, Angela Died: June 11, 1979 Age: 19, one of two teens fatally injured nearly simultaneously at a National Abortion Federation clinic)
  • Stark, Esther Died: June 11, 1917 Age: 23, died at a midwife's abortion practice

Saturday, June 09, 2012

1917: Doc's Work Kills Homemaker

On June 9, 1917, 26-year-old homemaker Emma A. Melvin died at Chicago's St. Mary's Hospital from a criminal abortion perpetrated by Dr. M. Meinhardt, who was never tried in Emma's death.

Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good.

In fact, due to improvements in addressing these problems, maternal mortality in general (and abortion mortality with it) fell dramatically in the 20th Century, decades before Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion across America.

For more information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.

external image MaternalMortality.gif

For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

Friday, June 08, 2012

The Atypical Anniversary is the One They Remember

Today is the anniversary of the most widely publicized abortion death in history. Geraldine "Gerri" Santoro, the woman in the infamous photo used by abortion advocates to illustrate the horror of illegal abortion, was left to die in a motel room by her adulterous lover, who had borrowed medical instruments and a book from a doctor in order to perpetrate the abortion himself. The photo showed Gerri, nude, face-down with her knees under her, on the floor of the motel room where she died. Ms. Magazine first published the photo in 1973, and abortion advocates continue to use the picture in posters. And in 1995, Boston filmmaker Jane Gillooly produced a film, "Leona's Sister Gerri," to rally people behind the cause of readily available abortion, on PBS, at taxpayer expense.If my arm wasn't broken I'd address the reasons their arguments ignore the real needs of women like Geri. Instead, I'll share a link that addresses one aspect of the issue: Abortion -- Solution for Abusive Husbands?

A more typical story happened in 1914. When 17-year-old Ester Reid missed a period, her mother, Julia, took the girl to two different people to determine if she was pregnant. Concluding that she was indeed pregnant, Julia bought some pills to try to induce an abortion. These didn't work, so she took Ester to Dr. J.L. Neuman, who demanded payment of $150 for an abortion. Julia dickered him down to $50, though he complained about it. He started the abortion at his practice, then completed it two days later at the family's home. His efforts clearly weren't even worth the $50, much less then $150 he'd wanted, since he managed to fatally injure Ester, who died on June 8, 1914. The secret abortion intended to keep Esther's father from kicking her out of the house removed her from the family permanently.

Fast-forward to a typical post-Roe death. The survivors of 32-year-old Joyce Ortenzio filed suit against Edward Allred, his Family Planning Associates Medical Group (FPA), the San Vicente Hospital FPA facility, and abortionist Ruben Marmet. Joyce went to San Vicente for laminaria insertion by Marmet on June 7, 1988. Later, Marmet performed asafe and legal abortion, but did not remove all of the fetal parts from Joyce's uterus. The next day, June 8, Joyce was found dead in her home. The cause of death was an overdose of the drug amitriptyline, infection from fetal parts that were not removed during the abortion and septic shock. Joyce left three children motherless. Other patients known to have died after abortion at Allred's facilities include:
I suspect that the reason the deaths appear in clusters is because those are years that researchers checked for lawsuits, rather than that these are all the women and girls who died at Allred facilities. Anybody with the time and resources to do so could probably uncover other deaths Allred and his staff have managed to sweep under the carpet.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

1915: Chicago Midwife's Fatal Work

On June 5, 1915, 25-year-old homemaker Mary Balcznska died at Chicago's St. Bernard's Hospital from an abortion perpetrated by midwife Veronika Rypczyski who was arrested and held by the Coroner on June 10. The case never went to trial.

Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good.

In fact, due to improvements in addressing these problems, maternal mortality in general (and abortion mortality with it) fell dramatically in the 20th Century, decades before Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion across America.

For more information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.

external image MaternalMortality.gif

For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

Sunday, June 03, 2012

A Gruesome Pre-Roe Tale, and a Routine Post-Roe Death

Barbara Lofrumento
Like the Jacqueline Smith case in the previous decade, the strange events surrounding the death of 19-year-old Barbara Lofrumento have become almost an urban legend. But the tale of Barbara's tragic death and its aftermath is all too true.

Barbara, a 19-year-old college student, informed her parents that she was pregnant. Mr. and Mrs. Lofrumento cast about for a reputable abortionist and were referred by an acquaintance to Dr. Harvey Lothringer. Lothringer, a Princeton graduate, examined Barbara on June 2, 1962, and assured the parents that although Barbara's pregnancy was 5 months advanced, there was no danger. He arranged to pick up Barbara and her mother, Rose, and took them to his office, which was in his home in a wealthy section of Queens.

This was typical of the "back alley abortion" -- a reputable physician would make sneaky arrangements to do abortions at the site of their legitimate practices, taking the woman in "through the back alley" rather than the front door. In fact, by far the bulk of criminal abortion were performed by doctors.

They arrived just after 3 AM on the 3rd. While Mrs. Lofrumento waited, Lothringer sent Barbara into a room where she removed her underwear and reported feeling unwell from the injection Lothringer had given her. Lothringer then took Barbara into his office and left Mrs. Lofrumento in his waiting room. At about 5 AM, Lothringer told Mrs. Lofrumento that Barbara was all right, but that she needed some oxygen. Sources disagree as to what happened next. Milton Helpern says that at 7 AM, Lothringer told Rose that Barbara was resting quietly, and that she should go home and get some rest. The New York Times says that Lothringer told Rose that he was going to hospitalize Barbara for a minor complication. Both sources indicated that Lothringer instructed Rose to return later to get her daughter.

Lothringer sent Mrs. Lofrumento to Grand Central Station, where he had arranged for her husband to pick her up and take her home. Instead, the couple went straight to Lothringer's home, where they found no sign of Lothringer or their daughter. They went home and repeatedly called Lothringer, getting no answer.
The next morning they returned to Lothringer's home, where they found several patients waiting outside. No one had seen Lothringer. Mr. Lofrumento waited for several hours, then went home, and contacted the police to report Barbara missing.

Later that day, Lothringer called a policeman who was a friend of his, telling him that he was away on business and asking him to call Roto-Rooter about the stopped-up toilet and to let them into the house.
Investigating the main house drain, the worker found the source of the problem -- pieces of bone and flesh. Somebody called the police, and an investigator took the tissue to be examined. Soon the authorities had workers digging up the sewer lines from Lothringer's house. They found pieces of Barbara, her clothing, and her baby. 
 
Lothringer, who had already been under surveillance for suspected abortion activities, appeared to have fled the country, accompanied by a Cuban-born former stewardess who was serving as his receptionist. Lothringer was well-to-do, with reports circulating that he kept as much as a million dollars cash in safe deposti boxes. An international manhunt was launched, with Lothringer first being traced to the area of his family's hunting lodge about 60 miles from Montreal. Eventually he was extradited from Andorra.

Lothringer told police that Barbara had developed an air embolism. He plead guilty to second-degree manslaughter in Barbara's death and was sentenced to 2 to 8 years.

Jumping ahead to the safe and legal era.


Sandra Lynn Chmiel was a pretty young mother of four when she went to Biogenetics Ltd. in Chicago for a safe and legal abortion on June 3, 1975.  Even though 35-year-old Sandra was more than 12 weeks pregnant, the Biogenetics doctor chose to ignore the Illinois law that required abortions after 12 weeks to be performed in hospitals. Within hours of her abortion, Sandra had bled to death from a punctured uterus. Biogenetics (which had been the target of at least 30 malpractice suits) claimed that their doctor was only repairing damage Sandra had done to herself in an attempted self-induced abortion. However, Biogenetics settled the case with Sandra's survivors for $75,000. Brenda Benton and Synthia Dennard also died after abortions at Biogenetics. Biogenetics's owner Kenneth Yellin was gunned down outside his facility in an apparent gangland slaying in 1979.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Oklahoma 1938; Chicago, 1926

Mary Ellen Legge, a 24-year-old department store clerk, died June 1, 1938, from a criminal abortion. Otto Lucy, an Oklahoma City psychologist and teacher, was sentenced to 25 years after pleading guilty in her death. He had charged Mary Ellen $75 for the fatal abortion. A practical nurse, Ella Hartin, admitted to helping Lucy perform the abortion. She said that Lucy had frequently brought his abortion patients to her home. While he was out on bail pending disposition of this case, he performed the fatal abortion on Goldie Crow.

On June 1, 1926, Willie Pearl Walker, an 18-year-old Black homemaker born in Eaton, Georgia, died at her Chicago home from complications of a criminal abortion performed that day. A white doctor, Thomas J. New, was held by the coroner in Willie Pearl's death. Willie's abortion was typical of criminal abortions in that it was performed by a doctor.

Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1920s.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion