Thursday, January 03, 2013

Two Deaths Over a Hundred Years Apart

An inquest was held in St. Louis, Missouri, regarding the January 3, 1866 death of 23-year-old Aurora Heaton. Finding rural life dull, she moved to the city, eventually taking up with a young man named Isaac McDonald. When her period was late, the couple went to a drug store and bought an abortifacient, which didn't have the desired effect. In correspondence with Isaac, Aurora was very apologetic for "all the trouble and expense" she was causing him, but asked him to go to a doctor and ask about another way of preventing her from facing unwed motherhood. After writing to Isaac, Aurora went to another drug store, where she bought two ounces of oil of cedar, "medicine used as a diuretic and emenagogue for female sickness and for other purposes; sometimes used by women to procure abortion." Aurora took a one-ounce dose on Tuesday night. Some time between 10:00 and 11:00. She went into convulsions, then fell into a coma. She was dead just after midnight. The post-mortem examination found some oil of cedar still in her stomach. Not only were there no signs of sickness in any of Aurora's organs -- there were also no signs of pregnancy.  Neither the use of abortifacients nor abortion deaths of women who weren't actually pregnant were ended with legalization. "Penny" decided to perform an abortion on herself in 1978 using pennyroyal, and Kris Humphrey made the same choice in 1994, both with fatal results. In 1971, "Sandra" took her own life in anguish after an abortion, and in 1989, Synthia Dennard bled to death from an abortion; neither woman had actually been pregnant.

Loretta Morton was 16 years old when she underwent a legal abortion in December of 1983. She was sent home with birth control pills. On January 3, 1984, Loretta was at home, and having trouble breathing. Her mother called for an ambulance. The ambulance crew assessed Loretta, decided she was stable, and left. They were called back ten minutes later because Loretta had lost consciousness. The crew rushed Loretta to a hospital, but attempts to resuscitate her were in vain. Within an hour of having lost consciousness, she was dead. An autopsy showed that she had died from a pulmonary embolism from the abortion.

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