Friday, November 30, 2012

Getting it Right: Savita Halappanavar Never Requested an Abortion

One of the most deplorable things that's happening in the scandal over the death of Savita Halappanavar is the media complicity in misrepresenting the situation. Take this Huffington Post article as case in point.

Savita Halappanavar, 17 weeks pregnant, was diagnosed as being in the middle of a miscarriage when she was admitted to an Irish hospital. She asked that labor be induced in order to get the whole thing over with, since she was in a lot of pain.

According to Savita's husband, the doctor refused on the grounds that the baby's heart was still beating and that since Ireland is a Catholic country, labor couldn't be induced while the baby's heart was still beating.

I don't know if Savita's doctor is an idiot or not. He might be just a rat-bastard and not a clueless clod. Either way, he was wrong. If a miscarriage is in progress, there is no law -- religious or secular -- that bans inducing labor to prevent the risk of maternal infection. There is no law -- religious or secular -- that bans using forceps to gently facilitate the delivery of the still-living 17-week baby. Savita's baby could have been removed from her uterus at any time once the inevitable miscarriage was diagnosed. To do so would have been 100% legal under Irish law. To do so would have been 100% permissible under Catholic doctrine.

What Irish law and Catholic doctrine forbid is an abortion.

A 17-week abortion is performed by reaching into the uterus with forceps and twisting pieces off the baby's body until the baby is dead and the uterus is empty.

By pulling the living baby into chunks, the abortion not only kills the baby, it also produces sharp bone fragments that can scratch, tear, or puncture the uterine wall. Such injuries actually increase the risk of infection by providing a direct pathway into the mother's blood stream.

In addition to helping the infection to spread faster, these injuries also bring with them the risk of fatal hemorrhage, embolism, and clotting disorders.

An abortion would not have reduced the risk to Savita's life. It would have compounded the risk. It would likely have made death flat-out inevitable.

It bears repeating: Savita requested an assisted delivery of a miscarrying fetus. What Savita requested was perfectly permissible under both Irish law and Catholic doctrine.What Savita requested was not an abortion.

I can understand why abortion advocacy groups misrepresent the nature of Savita's request. Of course they would misrepresent her request as an abortion request. Of course they would try to demonize both the Irish legislature and the Catholic Church, who are their sworn enemies in the drive for abortion-on-demand. To frame an obstetric malpractice case as a a dastardly, deadly deed done by their enemies is to be expected.

But why are the news media complicit? Why are they following the abortion-advocacy narrative and presenting Savita's death not as what it was -- flat out malpractice -- but rather framing it as a legally-mandated death?

I'm postulating one of two reasons:

1. The news media pass along the pronouncements of abortion-advocacy organizations because they trust those organizations and see no need to do any of their own investigating.

2. The news media know that what's being done is an act of deception and are deliberately complicit because they share the goals of the abortion advocacy organizations.

Perhaps there is another reason. And perhaps the reason isn't important. But what is important -- what is vital -- is understanding the truth. And the truth is this: Savita Halappanavar never requested an abortion. She never, never asked that her baby be put to death.

We can expect abortion advocacy organizations to slander a dead woman in order to achieve their ends. We can even expect them to lie to her family and characterize her innocent request as a request for an abortion so that they can then be used as pawns and as human shields. The abortion rights movement has made deceiving families and then using them as political props into an art form. They have a right to free speech, even if they use that free speech in dispicable ways.

But we need to stop letting the media get away with it. They need to start telling the truth: about Savita, about the doctor, about the circumstances, and about the organizations that are putting this woman's family through hell to achieve their political ends.

Three Chicago Docs' Fatal Work over Half a Century

On November 30, 1874, Mrs. Mary Dix died at her Chicago home from complications of a criminal abortion perpetrated there. Dr. W. F. Aiken was arrested and charged with murder. Mary's abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

On October 27, 1926, 34-year-old Sophie Peterson underwent an illegal abortion in the Chicago office of Dr. Frederick Springe.She was taken to Mercy Hospital, where she died on November 30.Springe was indicted for felony murder by a grand jury on December 15.

On November 30, 1927, 22-year-old homemaker Lucille van Iderstine died in the Chicago office of Dr. Emil Gleitsman, from an abortion that had been performed on her that day. Gleitsman was indicted for felony murder in Lucille's death on January 15, 1928. Gleitsman went on to be arrested for murder by abortion in the 1930 death of 22-year-old Jeanette Reder, but he was acquitted on June 15, 1931. Gleitsman was convicted three times on a single charge of manslaughter by abortion in 1934 (I'm assuming related to the death of 21-year-old Mary Colbert in 1933), but each time his lawyer got a reversal and eventually the prosecutors gave up.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Two Lethal Abortionists, Identified and Unidentified

On November 29, 1926, 25-year-old stenographer Mary Moorehead died from a criminal abortion in the Chicago office of Dr. Lucy Hagenow. Hagenow (pictured) was arrested November 13. She was sentenced to 14 years at Joliet Penitentiary, but was able to get her conviction overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court, which ordered a new trial in 1929. The judge, noting that there was no new evidence, dismissed the case, telling Hagenow, "You had better make your peace with God, Lucy Hagenow. I do not think your months on earth are many." Hagenow, who also went by the name of Louise or Louisa Hagenow, had a long and unsavory history of being involved in women's abortion deaths. The first were in San Francisco before Hagenow relocated to Chicago around 1890. The abortion deaths Hagenow was linked to include:

While we know who Mary's killer was, the next anniversary we mark today so far remains a mystery. Seventeen-year-old Dorothy Jasinski was brought to St. Mary's Hospital in Chicago by two unidentified women on November 17, 1930. Dorothy was treated there until her death on November 29. The coroner determined that Dorothy had died from an abortion performed in Michigan City, Indiana, the day she'd been brought to the hospital. The coroner recommended identification of the person or persons responsible, and his or their arrest on charges of murder.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Historic Case From Dakota Territory.

Mrs. George Libby, age 18, died November 28, 1888, in Wahpeton in the Dakota territories.

Before her death she admitted that she had bought abortifacient drugs from "a traveling doctor who made a specialty of selling such drugs." I have been unable to determine Mrs. Libby's first name.


I have no information on overall maternal mortality, or abortion mortality, in the 19th century. I imagine it can't be too much different from maternal and abortion mortality at the very beginning of the 20th Century. Because of overall public health issues 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 on this era, see Abortion Deaths in the 19th Century.

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

Two Deaths, Roughly 50 Years Apart. Did Legalization Bring Improvement?

On November 26, 1923, 23-year-old Alice Johnson died at Chicago's West End Hospital from a criminal abortion performed there that day.  The coroner identified Dr. Lorenz Lapsky as being responsible for Alice's death.  Lapsky was indicted by a grand jury for felony murder on December 15. 

 Alice's abortion was typical of criminal abortions in that it was performed by 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.

external image Illegals.png
Let's move ahead to 1971. "Monica" was a 31-year-old mother of five. She requested an abortion when she was 8 weeks pregnant, but the abortion was delayed about a month in order to address "some health, personal and administrative problems." Her doctor decided that it was best to simply remove Monica's uterus with the fetus still in it. The hysterectomy was done under general anesthesia with no apparent complications. On the second day after surgery, Monica developed fever and nausea, and had no bowel sounds. The next day she felt unwell and had a distended abdomen. Six days after the surgery, November 26, 1971, Monica began to scream and vomit. She reported severe abdominal pain and couldn't see. Within an hour of the onset of these symptoms, Monica died. The autopsy revealed grim findings. Monica had a severe infection that had interfered with her bowel function. As she continued to eat but not to have bowel movements, her bowels backed up, allowing gastric juices to enter her lungs and begin to digest them. She also had bacteria in her brain, which may have caused her blindness in the final hour of her life.

I can't imagine trying to argue that Monica's death was any less horrible than any criminal abortion stories floating around. But what about the claim that, thanks to legal abortion, at least there are fewer horrible deaths every year?


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.

external image Abortion+Deaths+Since+1960.jpg

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Three Thanksgiving Season Family Tragedies

On November 24, 1907, homemaker Lizzie Paulson, age 38, died at County Hospital in Chicago from an abortion performed that day. John and Minnie Nelson were arrested and held without bail. John Nelson was sentenced to Joliet for his role in Lizzie's death. John Nelson's profession is given as "outside labor force" and "abortion provider", so likely he was a professional lay abortionist. Lizzie's abortion was unusual in that it was not performed by a physician. For more about abortion and abortion deaths in the first years of the 20th century, see Abortion Deaths 1900-1909.
external image Illegals.png 

>On November 24, 1916, 24-year-old Mrs. M. Marazak died at Chicago's West Side Hospital from an abortion performed by an unknown perpetrator. With overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, all surgery was much more risky than it is today. 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 

Moving ahead to the halcyon days of safe, legal abortion.

Eighteen year old Michelle Madden, a coed, sought a safe and legal abortion from O.B. Evans at Family Planning Medical Center of Mobile, Alabama. It was performed on November 18, 1986. Michelle had been taking medication for epilepsy, and a doctor had told her that her baby would have birth defects. When Michelle's parents arrived at the college to take her home for Thanksgiving, the house mother had sad news for them. Three days after the abortion, Michelle had collapsed. She was taken to the hospital, where doctors found a leg bone, two pieces of skull, and some placenta still in Michelle's uterus. The surgery to save her life was too late. Sepsis had already set in, and Michelle died November 24, three days after she was admitted. Her parents sued Evans and the facility, and in 1991 a jury awarded them $10 million in damages. Evans appealed on the grounds that this would "devastate him financially", because his malpractice insurance would only cover $1 million. During the appeal, the parties agreed to settle for $5 million, with the insurance company paying the entire amount. Evans then sued his insurance company for not having settled with the family for $1 million prior to the trial, thus subjecting him to "emotional distress, humiliation, damage to his reputation, and loss of business" -- such "emotional distress", he asserted, was "so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it." 

Friday, November 23, 2012

An Early 20th Century Death

On November 18, 1909, Anna Pozajevich, age 24, died in Chicago home from an abortion performed on November 7. Julia Adamovitch was indicted by a grand jury. Her profession is given only as "abortion provider". She was tried and acquitted for reasons not given in the source document.

Note, please, that with general 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, see Abortion Deaths 1900-1909.
external image Illegals.png

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Two Early 20th Century Abortion Deaths

On November 22, 1913, 33-year-old Hulda Tubbin died in Chicago, at the scene of an abortion perpetrated that day by Dr. Olaf Olson. Though Olson was indicted for felony murder, the case never went to trial. Hulda left behind a husband and four young children.

On November 22, 1917, 20-year-old Helen Devora died at Chicago's West End Hospital from an abortion performed by an unknown perpetrator.

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

Deaths Back to the Civil War Era

James Anderson had already suffered much as autumn of 1862 passed. His eldest son, a soldier, had been killed in the line of duty in August, with word reaching the family in September. His wife had been so stricken with shock and grief at the loss of their son that she herself had died shortly thereafter. Then in October, his 20-year-old daughter, Clementina, disappeared. She had left on October 25, ostensibly to visit relatives, but word came that she had never arrived. What had become of her? James Anderson asked Clementina's suitor, A.L. Simms. All Simms would say was that perhaps Clementina had gone to visit friends. No more news came until the evening of November 19, when the doorbell rang at James Anderson's home. He answered to find a hackman holding what at first appeared to be a bundle of quilts in his arms. But when the man lay the bundle down on the sofa, Anderson saw that it was actually Clementina. James Anderson left the room briefly, overcome with emotion. In the moment her father was gone to compose himself, she breathed her last. Fate had dealt James Anderson a third tragic blow. And as the days progressed, the story came out: Simms had arranged for Dr. Edward Browne to perform an abortion that had fatally injured Clementina.

On November 19, 1913, 27-year-old homemaker Catherine Seabrooke died at St. Anthony's Hospital in Chicago from an abortion performed that day by an unknown perpetrator.


The influenza epidemic of 1918 was taking its toll on Colorado, with with nine deaths reported in a single 24-hour period, from November 11 to 12. This brought the total for the state up to 430. The natural preoccupation with the terrible epidemic may account for the scant news coverage given to the abortion death of Mary Lareau of Denver. Miss Helen Stoughton and Mrs. A. DeFoe, whose professions were not given, were arrested in her death. Geneology records indicate that Mary was the unmarried daughter of Franscois and Mary (Bauer) Lareau, and was born December 26, 1902 in St. Mary's, Kansas. This would have made her only 15 years old at the time of her death.

On November 19, 1924, 38-year-old homemaker Elizabeth Strazdas, a Lithuanian immigrant, died at Chicago's Mother Cabrini Hospital from complications of a criminal abortion performed that day. The person responsible for Elizabeth's death was never identified.

On December 31, 1935, criminal abortion charges were dropped against Dr. Tobias Ginsberg, and his nurse, because of insufficient evidence. The two were suspects in the November 19, 1935 abortion death of 24-year-old Mrs. Edith Eschrich.

Keep in mind that 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

Saturday, November 17, 2012

1935: Oklahoma Doc's Fatal Efforts

On November 17, 1935, Georgia Marie McGill, 21-year-old daughter of oil company superintendent George McGill, died from an apparent criminal abortion in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Marie's father identified Dr. W. R. Mitchell as the perpetrator. Mitchell was already a reputed abortionist, and police had already gotten many complaints about him prior to Marie's death.

Mitchell was arrested and tried but the case ended with a hung jury. After the trial, Mitchell resumed his abortion business and was arrested again for his practice.

Marie's abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

external image Illegals.png

Friday, November 16, 2012

Two Deaths Roughly 100 Years Apart

On November 16, 1905, 18-year-old Dorothy Spuhr died in County Hospital in Chicago from an abortion performed on November 13. A woman named Julia Gibson, aka Timmons, was arrested and held by the coroner's jury. She was indicted, and attempted suicide by shooting on April 6, 1906, in Michael Reese Hospital. Gibson's profession was given as "Abortion Provider", but not as midwife, nurse, or physician, so I'm guessing she was a professional lay abortionist. Dorothy's abortion was unusual for a pre-legalization abortion in that it was not performed by a physician.

Now let's jump ahead nearly 100 years and see how much better off legalization has made women who undergo abortions.

A woman identified as "Patient A" (I'll call her "Adelle"), was 26 years old when she went to "Landmark Women's Center", which looked like a clinic but was really just Dr. Mi Yong Kim's office. Kim (pictured) did not order proper lab studies, document an appropriate history, or perform a proper exam on Adelle before performing a safe and legal abortion on her on November 16, 2002. Kim administered 25 mg of Versed to Adelle, in response to her reports of pain, over a 10-minute period, without giving the medicine time to take effect.
At the end of the abortion, Kim noted that Adelle's pulse oximeter reading was only 70%, an alarming finding. Kim thought she found a pulse, did not assess whether or not Adelle was breathing, and simply ordered her staff to give Adelle oxygen by mask and call 911. Kim administered Romazicon to reverse the effects of the Versed, but did not notice that Adelle had gone into cardiac arrest. As such, Kim made no effort to resuscitate her -- not that she or her staff were trained or equipped to do so. The ambulance crew arrived and transported Adelle to the hospital, where she was declared dead. The medical board, while noting gross shortcomings, did not suspend or yank Kim's license, instead noting that she was making improvements in her quality of care. She was instead placed under stipulations regarding her use of anesthesia in her office and her record-keeping.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Three Pre-Legal Deaths in Chicago

On November 15, 1901, 22-year-old Erma Brown of Garden City, Kansas, died at County Hospital from complications of an abortion performed there that day. Dr. Robert E. Gray was arrested November 19 and held without bail by Coroner's Jury. On March 26, 1902, Gray was acquitted by a jury for reasons not indicated by the source.


On November 15, 1912, 38-year-old Ida Kloie died in her Chicago home from an abortion perpetrated by midwife Minnie Neermann. Neerman was held by the Coroner on November 25, and indicted by a Grand Jury on December 1, but the case never went to trial.


That same day, also in Chicago, 33-year-old homemaker Fannie Scheiner died at County Hospital after an abortion perpetrated that day by midwife Annie Balnoka. Balnoka was arrested and held by the Coroner on November 24, and indicted by a Grand Jury on December 15, but 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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Woman 'denied a termination' dies in hospital"

Woman 'denied a termination' dies in hospital

This article is currently making the rounds. The movement to remove all protection from the unborn in Ireland is having a field day, and their siblings across the pond are making waves, too. The scuttlebutt is that all of this has to do with a woman being denied a life-saving abortion.

Savita Halappanavar was admitted to an Irish hospital on October 21, complaining of back pain. They found that she was suffering a miscarriage.

The Irish Times relays the story that her husband,  Praveen Halappanavar, told them.

 Mr Halappanavar said an internal examination was performed when she first presented.

“The doctor told us the cervix was fully dilated, amniotic fluid was leaking and unfortunately the baby wouldn’t survive.” The doctor, he says, said it should be over in a few hours. There followed three days, he says, of the foetal heartbeat being checked several times a day.

“Savita was really in agony. She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby. When the consultant came on the ward rounds on Monday morning Savita asked if they could not save the baby could they induce to end the pregnancy. The consultant said, ‘As long as there is a foetal heartbeat we can’t do anything’.

“Again on Tuesday morning, the ward rounds and the same discussion. The consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country. Savita [a Hindu] said: ‘I am neither Irish nor Catholic’ but they said there was nothing they could do.

That evening she developed shakes and shivering and she was vomiting. She went to use the toilet and she collapsed. There were big alarms and a doctor took bloods and started her on antibiotics. (italics mine)

“The next morning I said she was so sick and asked again that they just end it, but they said they couldn’t.”

At lunchtime the foetal heart had stopped and Ms Halappanavar was brought to theatre to have the womb contents removed. “When she came out she was talking okay but she was very sick. That’s the last time I spoke to her.”

At 11 pm he got a call from the hospital. “They said they were shifting her to intensive care. Her heart and pulse were low, her temperature was high. She was sedated and critical but stable. She stayed stable on Friday but by 7pm on Saturday they said her heart, kidneys and liver weren’t functioning. She was critically ill. That night, we lost her.”

I'll leave aside the revolting way the paper referred to Savita's baby as "womb contents." Let's move along.

Since they're quoting the grieving father and husband, I'm not going to call into doubt the veracity of the paper's story.

Note what I put in italics. Savita had already been dilated, with her water broken, when she was admitted on Sunday, October 21. If her husband is recalling correctly, it wasn't until Tuesday evening, when Savita's condition rapidly deteriorated and she collapsed, that anybody gave her any antibiotics. What kind of care was she being given in the mean time?

I've looked at a few sites trying to find what a competent physician would do with a patient like Savita. If her husband is recalling correctly, there were a lot of failures in diagnosis, counseling, and treatment -- including failure to attempt to save a baby that clearly had a strong, healthy heart beat. The doctor appeared to have decided that Savita's baby was doomed based solely on the results of a single physical examination.

It sounds as if, had Savita been given appropriate care from the beginning, there would have been no issue. Proper diagnostics, pain management, and antibiotics administered in a timely manner would likely have provided both Savita and her baby with the necessary treatment.

However, let's go ahead and assume that, in spite of how tenacious of life Savita's baby turned out to be, he or she truly was doomed, that a miscarriage was completely inevitable.

Let's look at what the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services," by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, has to say. I'm sure that the directives for Catholic hospitals worldwide are similar; correct me if I'm wrong  I'll bold the parts I'll be looking at more in-depth:


45. Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion....

47, Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.


....


49. For a proportionate reason, labor may be induced after the fetus is viable.

If Savita was in the throes of an inevitable miscarriage, suffering from an infection originating in the uterus, inducing labor would be permissible for any Catholic, since the intention of the induction would be to address the infection of the uterus, not to kill the child. That premature delivery would hasten the child's already inevitable death would be a sad but unavoidable side effect.The same could be said of a forceps-assisted delivery. What what would be forbidden would be an actual direct abortion -- reaching into the uterus with forceps and removing the child in pieces so that he or she dies of dismemberment.

I don't think you have to be Catholic to not want to be party to that.

Savita's death isn't the first instance I've heard of in which a woman was reportedly denied "termination" of a miscarrying pregnancy until fetal heart tones were absent. I'll address that in a later post.

1910: Chicago Midwife's "Help" Proves Fatal

On November 13, 1910, 32-year-old Norwegian immigrant Pauline Braasch died in her Chicago home from an abortion performed there, possibly that same day. A nurse or midwife named Elizabeth Burns was indicted for felony murder in Pauline's death. The source has no record of the case going to trial.

Note, please, that with 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 information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.

external image Illegals.png

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pre and Post Legalization Deaths: Any Improvement?

On November 20, 1925, 29-year-old Anna Kick died in Chicago's Washington Park Hospital from an abortion performed that day at an undisclosed location. The coroner determined that a midwife was responsible for Anna's death, but did not determine the midwife's name.

That very same day, 23-year-old Helen Bain, a homemaker, died in Chicago from complications of a criminal abortion performed that day. Dr. George Slater was arrested on November 21 for Helen's death. Slater was indicted by a grand jury for homicide on May 1, 1926. Helen's abortion was typical of criminal abortions in that it was performed by 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

Of course, legalizing abortion didn't get rid of the problem of women dying from botched abortions. On November 20 of 2009, a Nepalese refugee named Karnamaya Mongar was killed by a massive overdose of drugs administered by the unsupervised and untrained staff of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell. Pennsylvania authorities, including the medical board and the health department, had been alerted to Gosnell's filthy and dangerous mill, but elected to look the other way due to their pro-choice commitment to abortion access as a greater good.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Two Pre-Legalization Deaths

On November 12, 1917, 22-year-old homemaker Margaret Linstrom died at Chicago's American Hospital from an abortion perpetrated by Dr. Anna Sorenson, who was indicted and released. Sorenson had performed the fatal abortion on Emelia Gorman earlier that year, and went on to kill Margaret Crowe in January of the following year. Her chain of death ended with her own death in prison while awaiting trial after her January 15, 1918 arrest.

On November 12, 1952, Isabell Cuda died in Rockford, Illinois from complications of an abortion. An elderly midwife named Mary Murawski was convicted in Isabell's death. Isabell's mother had arranged the abortion with Murawski, because Isabell was separated from a husband who likely wouldn't provide any support for the child since he already wasn't supporting the couple's born children. Murawski agreed to do the abortion for $50. Murawski used a catheter inserted into Isabell's uterus, followed up the next day with removal of the catheter and administration of some sort of douche. Not surprisingly, this caused an infection that left Isabell dead..

Margaret's abortion, performed by an adequately equipped physician, wouldn't count as an "unsafe abortion" by current definitions. Isabell's however, would, since Mary Murawski was a lay midwife. Of course, the abortion could have been avoided altogether if her estranged husband hadn't been a deadbeat.


 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Four Crimal Abortion Deaths, 1875 - 1929

On November 8, 1875, 19-year-old Mary Foorman suddenly disappeared from her home. "No traces could be found of her, and grave suspicions were entertained."  It wasn't until May 7 of the following year that her brother finally broke down and confessed that he knew what had become of her. A man named Nathan Smith had gotten Mary pregnant. Mary's brother agreed to help Mary arrange an abortion to be performed by Dr. H. B. Mansuer (or Manzer) and Dr. J.P. McIlwain. Unfortunately, Mary died on November 11 from the abortion. She was buried in a swamp about two miles south of Eaton, Indiana. After her body was recovered, she was given a decent burial in her home town.

On November 11, 1909, Marian Lang, age 29, died in Chicago home from an abortion.Dr. Pope was indicted by a grand jury. The source document does not indicate that the case went to trial. 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 and abortion deaths in the first years of the 20th century, see Abortion Deaths 1900-1909.

On November 11, 1916, 28-year-old Mrs. (Margaret) Elizabeth Winter died at her Chicago home from an abortion perpetrated by Cecelia Stejskal, whose profession is given only as "abortion provider." Though Stejskal was held by the coroner, the case never went to trial. For more information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.

On November 11, 1929, 23-year-old Mary Kelly died in Chicago from an abortion performed by an unidentified perpetrator.  It's likely that the abortion was perpetrated by a physician. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1920s.


external image Illegals.png

Friday, November 09, 2012

Two Safe and Legal Deaths: Would More Die if Not For Legalization?

Demetrice Andrews, age 22, underwent an abortion on October 17, 1988. She became progressively ill, and was finally admitted to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Demetrice suffered multiple organ failure. She died on November 9, 1988. It is ironic that Demetrice was admitted to Grady to be treated for abortion complications. Another woman, Jacqueline Reynolds, died just two years earlier, from complications of anesthesia administered for an abortion performed at Grady.

"Yvonne" Roe is one of the women Life Dynamics notes on their "Blackmun Wall" of women killed by legalized abortion. Yvonne was a 19-year-old student who died from sepsis on November 9, 1999 in Marrero, Louisiana, after undergoing a safe and legal abortion. She had been an All-American cheerleader and a member of the National Honor Society. Life Dynamics cites the Clarion Ledger, November 11, 1999, and indicates that though they have information giving Yvonne's real name, they can not release it due to a confidentiality agreement.

Supporters of legal abortion would argue that while these young women's deaths were sad, even more women would die every year if abortion had not been legalized.  To encourage people to believe this, abortion-advocacy organizations and leaders put forth claims such as: 
  • "The legalization of induced abortion beginning in the 1960s contributed to an 89% decline in deaths from septic illegal abortions during 1950-1973." (Centers for Disease Control
  • "By making abortion legal nationwide, Roe v. Wade has had a dramatic impact on the health and well-being of American women. Deaths from abortion have plummeted, and are now a rarity." (Alan Guttmacher Institute)

The problem is, they're omitting far more than they're saying, and what they do say gives a very false impression as a result.

Let's look at these claims:

"The legalization of induced abortion beginning in the 1960s contributed to an 89% decline in deaths from septic illegal abortions during 1950-1973."

The first legalization of abortion in the US was in 1966, when Mississippi legalized abortion for rape cases. From 1967 through 1970, states began allowing "mental health" abortions approved by hospital committees. In 1970, New York legalized abortion on demand.

Let's zoom in on the period between 1950 and 1973, with a line at 1966 to mark Mississippi's groundbreaking legalization of abortions for rape, another at New York's legalization of abortion on demand, and another at Roe to see how much of the decline can be attributed to legalization:



Actually, I'm sort of bewildered as to why they set their starting point at 1950, 16 years before the first state legalized abortion at all, when the 1950s was a time when abortion mortality was leveling off rather than declining. But regardless of the selection of 1950 rather than 1960 as a starting point for illustrating the supposedly life-saving impact of legalization, clearly abortion deaths had been falling long before the first rather tepid forays into legal abortion in a few states. If legalization had any impact at all, judging from the data, it was to cause a slight blip in the existing downward trend.

 Now let's look at the Alan Guttmacher claim:

"By making abortion legal nationwide, Roe v. Wade has had a dramatic impact on the health and well-being of American women. Deaths from abortion have plummeted, and are now a rarity."

That claim was more vague, and also far less supportable by the data. In fact, it's not even supportable by their own graphic:

I'll add a line at Roe to make this clearer:



Look at the chart below, which shows the number of women dying annually from abortions since 1940. The first vertical line is at 1970 -- when New York became the first state to legalize abortion-on-demand. (It had become de-facto on-demand in California by then as well.) The second is at 1973, when the Roe vs. Wade decision struck down every abortion law in the United States.


 Pointing to Roe as the reason why abortion deaths plummeted starts to look downright delusional when you stand back and look at the data.

What really does account for the dramatic fall in abortion deaths? Two things: antibiotics and blood transfusions.

So you could use actual facts to argue that were antibiotics and blood transfusions not available, even more women would die from abortions. But you can not rationally and honestly claim that legalizing abortion deserves any credit at all for reducing abortion deaths.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

What's the point of an abortion?

In anything a doctor does to/for a patient, there is a desired effect, and there are possible side effects, which might or not be unwelcome.

One that's fairly straightforward is administering pain medication. The goal of the medication is to alleviate the pain. Unwelcome side effects of the medication might include nausea and vomiting. Side effects that might or might not be unwelcome would be sleepiness or giddiness. (Some patients might be desperate for sleep, and others might be fighting to stay awake; some might enjoy the buzz of the giddiness while others might find it annoying because they're trying to be rational.)

Tooth extraction is more complex. The goal might seem simplistic at first. It's to remove the tooth, duh! But nobody goes to a dentist and says, "I do not care for this tooth. Please remove it." The tooth is being extracted for some underlying reason. The patient might be in pain from a large cavity. An abscess at the root of the tooth might be endangering the patient's health. The patient's teeth might be overcrowded, and the tooth is being extracted to make room for orthodontic work. In a dental extraction, the actual loss of the tooth is, when you get right down to it, a side effect. The actual goal of the treatment is the alleviation of pain, the prevention of the expected negative effects of the abscess, or the rearrangement of the teeth for a functional and/or attractive bite.

Abortion, I think, is far more like a tooth extraction than it is like the administration of pain medication. I want people to respond thoughtfully to the questions:

1. What is the goal of an abortion?

2. What side effects are there?  Are these side effects welcome or unwelcome?

Once the discussion gets going I'm going to start building new posts and launching new discussions based on the comments I get.

My initial thoughts.

1. What is the goal of an abortion? It depends on the circumstances. Most of the time the goal is to alleviate the woman's distress at the diagnosis of pregnancy. Sometimes, though, the goal is to alleviate a maternal health problem. Sometimes it is to prevent the live birth of a child with a health problem.

2. What are the side effects? Physical pain from the actual procedure. Increased risk of infertility and /or complications with future pregnancies. Distress at the death of the fetus. Possible immediate complications such as damage to internal organs and structures.

Your thoughts? Please, no flippancy.

Two Abortion Deaths: 19th Century and 20th Century

Mr. and Mrs. William J.F. Bullerman ran "a rather mysterious sort of rookery" in Chicago on November 8, 1879. There, police discovered a woman named Elizabeth Foley seriously ill with septicemia. Police suspected that the abortion had probably been perpetrated by Dr. Franklin Brooks, "who, a few years ago, was awarded six years at Joliet for abortion." They took Mrs. Foley to Cook County Hospital, where she died later that day. To the end, Elizabeth insisted that she'd given birth and that her sister, Mary, and taken the child to their mother's home in Greenbaugh, Wisconsin. Mary denied this, and her employer told police that she'd not been out of town at all. The post-mortem examination showed that Elizabeth had indeed died from an abortion.

Eighteen-year-old Christine Mora underwent a safe, legal abortion at Doctors' Surgical Center in Cypress, California -- an FPA (Family Planning Associates Medical Group) facility -- on November 2, 1994. She was about 17 weeks pregnant and a high school senior.A nurse practitioner inserted laminaria to dilate Christine's cervix. Christine went hom and returned the following day for the abortion. Dr. Thomas Grubbs performed the D&E and sent Christine to recovery.Preparing to leave the clinic, Christine fell while unattended. Grubbs was called to check her, and noticed slurred speech and inappropriate responses. Christine was taken to La Palma Hospital, where she  was admitted to the intensive care unit. Her condition deteriorated until she was finally taken off life support at noon on November 8, and pronounced dead. Christine left an 18-month old child motherless.The autopsy showed acute septicemia and hemorrhage in the brain, along with some small cervical lacerations.Christine wasn't the only young woman to die from abortion at a facility owned by FPA head honcho Edward Campbell Allred. Others include Denise Holmes, age 24, 1970; Patricia Chacon, age 16, 1984; Mary Pena, age 43, 1984; Lanice Dorsey, age 17, 1986; Joyce Ortenzio, age 32, 1988; Tami Suematsu, age 19, 1988; Deanna Bell, age 13, 1992; Susan Levy, age 30, 1992; Nakia Jorden, 1998; Maria Leho, 1999; Kimberly Neil, 2000; Maria Rodriguez, age 22, 2000; and Chanelle Bryant, age 22, 2004.Allred's facilities remain members of the National Abortion Federation despite these deaths.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

1914: Unknown Perp Leaves Chicago Woman Dead

On November 6, 1914, 25-year-old Genevive Tatar died at Cook County Hospital (pictured) in Chicago from complications of an abortion performed by an unknown perpetrator.

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.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Abortion Deaths Before and After Roe

On November 4, 1928, 22-year-old Norwegian immigrant Anna Borndal died at the office of Dr. Lou E. Davis of Chicago, from complications of an abortion performed there that day. Davis was held by the coroner for unintentional manslaughter. She was indicted by a grand jury for homicide.

Anna's abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

Davis had already been implicated in the 1913 abortion death of 27-year-old Anna Adler and the 1924 abortion death of 26-year-old homemaker Mary Whitney. On December 1, 1928, 23-year-old Esther V. Wahlstrom died from an abortion perpetrated by Davis, who was at last convicted for her crime. Clearly, merely criminalizing abortion is not sufficient to make sure that quacks are locked up where they can do no further harm. When Roe falls, it will be incumbent upon prolifers to close up loopholes in the law that allow abortionists to walk free after killing women.

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

Moving ahead to our supposedly more enlightened days of legal abortion:

Louchrisser Jackson, a 23-year-old mother of five, was 12 weeks pregnant when she went to Dr. Robert L. Gardner for a safe and legal abortion at Reproductive Services in Dallas on November 4, 1977. After the abortion, Louchrisser began hemorrhaging. Gardner said that he ordered blood for a transfusion, but it didn't arrive so about an hour before her death he attempted to give her a transfusion with his own blood -- which turned out to be an incompatible type.

A private ambulance was called but was not informed of the nature of the transport. In that jurisdiction, private ambulances are only permitted to transport stable patients; they are prohibited from responding to emergency calls. Because the ambulance service had no reason to expect an emergency, they did not respond promptly, nor did they refer the transport to the fire department's ambulance service. When the ambulance crew arrived, Louchrisser had gone into cardiac arrest. The crew, upon discovering that they'd been called for an emergency transport, rushed Louchrisser to the hospital immediately rather than calling for a fire department ambulance.

Louchrisser died that day. Gardner requested that the body be released without an inquiry. Another physician at the hospital learned of the case and requested an inquiry. The autopsy found massive hemmorage of at least two liters of blood, and a "1.8 x 2 cm. ragged perforation in the right lateral wall just above the internal os of the cervical canal. This perforation communicates freely with the retroperitoneal space on the right side. The endometrial surface of the uterus is ragged and hemorrhagic." Death was attributed to "massive retroperitoneal hemorrhage due to perforation of the uterus during a therapeutic abortion."

Abortion rights groups will claim that while Louchrisser's death was sad, there would be more abortion deaths like hers were abortion not "safe and legal." But 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.

external image Abortion+Deaths+Since+1960.jpg

Saturday, November 03, 2012

1983: Doc Pokes Hole in Woman's Bowel, Prescribes Laxative

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.

Friday, November 02, 2012

It's Not Hard to Fly Under the CDC's Radar

Life Dynamics lists 24-year-old Karretu Jabbie on their "Blackmun Wall" of women killed by legal abortions. According to LDI, Karretu was from West Africa. She underwent an incomplete abortion and bled to death on November 2, 1989.

I have no idea if the Centers for Disease Control bothered to count Karretu's death. They have a don't ask/don't tell attitude toward abortion deaths. The idea that they actually care about women's deaths from safe, legal abortion should be blown out of the water by looking at how they dealt with the death of Latachie Veal.




Latachie was 17 years old, and 22 weeks pregnant, when Robert Dale Crist performed an abortion on her at Houston's West Loop Clinic November 2, 1991. According to Latachie's family, she bled heavily at the clinic, and cried out to the staff for help. They told her that her symptoms were normal, and sent her home. Several hours later, Latachie stopped breathing. Her brother-in-law called 911 while her sister did CPR, to no avail. Latachie was dead on arrival at Ben Taub Hospital.

If Latachie's death certificate had been filled out properly, with the notation of the abortion in the proper box, using the proper ICD-9 code, then theoretically the National Center for Health Statistics would spot the abortion code and report it. But most states send only a statistical sample of their death certificate data to the NCHS. So the CDC would be notified of Latachie's death through the NCHS only if the death certificate was properly filled out, and Latachie's death certificate was among those abstracted and sent to the NCHS.

But still, according to abortion defenders, Latachie's death would nevertheless be automatically reported to the Centers for Disease Control. They're not clear on who is supposed to report the death. Was West Loop Clinic supposed to report it? Was Crist supposed to report it? Was Ben Taub Hospital supposed to report it? Was the medical examiner supposed to report it? Was the Texas Department of Health supposed to report it? The CDC says it gets abortion death information from abortionists, abortion facilities, hospitals, and state health departments, but it does not mention that the reporting is not mandatory.

This does not mean that Latachie's death went utterly unnoticed.

Latachie's family filed suit, retaining the flamboyant "Racehorse" Haynes as their attorney. The case was highly publicized, both in Texas and in Missouri, where Crist had performed a fatal abortion on Diane Boyd, a 19-year-old developmentally disabled woman who had been raped in the institution where she'd lived.

The mainstream publicity went beyond the usual newspaper articles, with Crist giving television interviews calling the publicity "media hype" and "a political event." Haynes retorted, "I wish he would have a copy of the 911 tape.... If he would talk to the parents, if he would talk to the sister as she gave her CPR or talk to the brother-in-law as she was breathing her last breath and see then if he thinks it's a media event."

With all this mainstream publicity in two states, prolife organizations picked up the story, and it was reported in prolife newsletters around the nation.

A lot of people very quickly found out about the abortion death of 17-year-old Latachie Veal. But did the CDC?

At the 1992 National Abortion Federation Risk Management Seminar in Dallas, Crist spoke openly of Latachie's death. (He did not, of course, mention her name; I've concluded that he's discussing Latachie's death, since there's been no evidence of any another 17-year-old abortion patient of his who died in 1991.) Crist blamed the death not on malpractice, but on disseminated intravascular coagulopathy -- a clotting disorder that can be triggered during an abortion.

Present at that Risk Management Seminar, where Crist chattered about Latachie's death, were two -- count 'em -- two-- staffers from the Centers for Disease Control's abortion surveillance activities area: Stanley Henshaw and Lisa Koonin. Henshaw's presence isn't quite as remarkable as Koonin's. It was Lisa Koonin, specifically, whose job it was to "verify" abortion deaths, and obtain copies of death certificates. These she was to pass on to a research fellow, Clarice Green, who would then gather the full information about the case.

In spite of all the publicity, in spite of the lawsuit, in spite of the prolifers shouting from the rooftops, in spite of the abortionist discussing the death at an event attended by the very woman whose job it was to notice abortion deaths, the Centers for Disease Control did not notice Latachie's death. Their 1991 Abortion Surveillance Report, published in May of 1995, did not even make any mention of abortion mortality. And when we at Life Dynamics filed a request for information about abortion deaths, we found that the CDC counted zero -- count 'em -- zero -- abortion deaths among women of Latachie's race in the 15 - 19 age range. In other words, they didn't even notice.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but if the CDC failed to notice this highly-publicized death, discussed openly at an event attended by two of their abortion surveillance staffers, exactly what does it take to get them to notice an abortion death? And how can we even pretend to believe that any serious attempt to accurately count abortion deaths was being made?

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Two Safe-n-Legal Deaths from the Early 1990s

On November 1, 1991, 21-year-old Anjelica Duarte underwent an abortion by Dr. Larry Thompson at Women's Place Clinic in Las Vegas, Nevada. According to one of Anjelica's friends, Anjelica had sought an abortion because a doctor had recommended that she delay having another baby for five years due to health problems. Anjelica already had a three-year-old daughter and a one-year-old daughter. After the abortion, Anjelica was kept under observation for several hours, but was not given any care. She was rushed to the hospital by paramedics at 7:30 that evening, but she was dead on arrival. A hospital spokesman said that she had lost 90 percent of her blood; her uterus had been perforated. In reviewing the case, the medical board noted that Thompson did not have adequate equipment for post-operative care, and revoked his license.

Anjelica's was not the only tragic death caused by doctors who recommended (or excused) abortion as a life-saving or health-preserving option for the mother:

  • Allegra Roseberry was pushed into an abortion in order to obtain experimental cancer treatment.
  • Barbara Hoppert died after an abortion recommended due to a congenital heart problem.
  • Christin Gilbert died after an abortion George Tiller holds was justified on grounds of maternal health.
  • Erika Peterson died in 1961 when her doctors obtained her husband's permission to perform a "therapeutic" abortion.
  • "Molly" Roe died in 1975 when her doctors made the dubious decision to perform a saline abortion to improve her chances of surviving a lupus crisis.
"Susan" Roe is one of the women Life Dynamics notes on their "Blackmun Wall" of women killed by legalized abortion. According to Life Dynamics, they obtained confidential information from the CDC and state health officials about this 21-year-old Caucasian woman who died November 1, 1992, after a safe and legal abortion performed in Maine.