Friday, March 08, 2013

Modern Quackery, Beneficiaries of New York Legalization, and Pre Roe Deaths

On March 4, 1975, Robert Sherman performed a safe and legal abortion on 16-year-old Rita McDowell, who was in the second trimester of her pregnancy. When Rita was discharged, her mother was told that she would expel the fetus that night. As they left the office, Rita told her mother, "Oh, Mama, I feel like I had one hundred needles in me." Rita did not expel the fetus. Instead, she developed a fever. Her mother called Sherman's facility on March 5 but was told that Sherman would not speak to her, and to bring Rita in two days later. In the early morning hours of March 7, Rita awoke screaming, then collapsed in her mother's arms. Doctors at the hospital where Rita was taken removed the macerated fetus, but she died from massive infection just after midnight on March 8. An investigation revealed evidence that Sherman deliberately performed incomplete abortions so that he could charge more for follow-up care. He was charged with murder in Rita's death, and prosecutors presented evidence that Sherman re-used disposable medical equipment, failed to perform tests to verify pregnancy, failed to do pathology examinations, allowed a nurse's aide to perform surgery, and falsified medical records. Sherman got the charge dropped in exchange for a guilty plea on perjury charges. The prosecutor defended the plea bargain on the grounds that the felony convictions would block Sherman from ever practicing medicine again. However, Sherman served two years in a federal prison, then set up a legal abortion practice in Boston.

In early March of 1972, "Colleen" took advantage of the new law and traveled from Michigan to New York for a safe and legal abortion. She was 21 years old and 20 weeks pregnant. Colleen had a history of asthma. During the abortion, she went into respiratory arrest. She died March 8, the same day 31-year-old "Connie" died from a a safe and legal abortion performed in in New York on March 3. Connie had gone into cardiac arrest during the abortion. She left behind one child.

On the morning of March 8, 1954, the Skains family of Haskell, Texas, got a phone call from police in Chicago. Their 24-year-old daughter, Ozella Ann Skains, had been found dead along a street in suburban Oak Park. Police surmised that she had either jumped from, or been thrown from, a moving vehicle. The chiropractor, John Goetschel, to whom she was engaged was being held for questioning, along with a friend of his. Both Goetschel and the friend told the police that they knew Ozella was pregnant. Goetschel said he'd prescribed 12 five-grain quinine tablets, telling Ozella to take two at a time, then follow up with a hot bath. He also used chiropractic treatments on Monday night (the day before her body was discovered) to attempt to cause an abortion. A woman that the police questioned said that Ozella had stayed with her all day Monday and had been often stricken with nausea. She'd left about 11 p.m. In the company of the two men, who insisted that she'd been very much alive when they had dropped her off near her hotel that night. The autopsy revealed that Ozella had died of an air embolism without ever having lost the baby. Goetschel was prosecuted, but acquitted by a jury of eight women and four men, a verdict his attorney attributed to lack of clear evidence that Goetschel had caused Ozella's death. Ozella's family sued Goetschel and Malek for $20,000 in damages.

Twenty-two-year-old Mary Bellville died Friday, March 8, 1889, from complications of an attempted abortion. "Her death aroused increased excitement in Astoria." A week before her death, Miss Bellville made a deathbed statement that Arthur B. Roosa had helped her to abort another pregnancy the previous June, "furnishing the instrument and instructing her in its use". Roosa, Miss Bellville said, was the father of both aborted children. He had not helped her with the second, fatal abortion. News coverage attempted to quell rumors that any local physicians, or any party other than Miss Bellville herself, "had any part in this criminal act."

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