Sunday, March 24, 2013

Three Criminal Deaths, and Lessons for Prevention

On March 21, 1947, Ilene Eagen, age 24, was brought to Mankato, Minnesota, to the dental office of W. A. Groebner for an abortion. Court records indicate that Ilene was pressured into the abortion by her paramour, Raymond Older, who refused to marry her and threatened her with bodily harm if she refused an abortion. After the abortion, Ilene became violently ill and lost consciousness. Older took Ilene to his service station in Granada, Minnesota and kept her there, allowing Ilene to languish without medical care. She died March 24, leaving a seven-year-old daughter motherless. Older tried to escape civil liability on the grounds that despite his refusal to marry her, and the threats, Ilene had consented to the abortion and that therefore she was responsible for her own sickness and subsequent death. Since there will always be sleezebag men -- both abusers willing to force abortions and quacks willing to perpetrate them -- we must create better outreach for battered women, along with superior methods for helping them to stay safe as they escape abuse. Making abortion more accessible will only serve to help the abusers.

On March 24, 1915, 31-year-old Frances Kulczyk died at her Chicago home from an abortion performed by an unknown perpetrator. Frances, who kept house and worked as a scrub woman, was the widow of Walter Kulzyk,who had worked as a molder in a foundry. With Frances' death, the three children, all under the age of 10, were left orphans. To prevent such tragedies, communities should make sure that the work of their pregnancy centers are better known -- and prochoice organizations should stop demonizing them and scaring women away from those who would provide ongoing help and support. Women would not feel the desperation and despair that drives them to abortion if they were assured that they would not face their challenges alone.

On March 24, 1905, 28-year-old Ida Alice Bloom, a Swedish immigrant working as a domestic servant, died suddenly in Chicago from septic peritonitis caused by an apparent criminal abortion perpetrated on or about March 15. Dr. Julius N. Goltz as arrested as a principal, and James McDonald as an accessory. Both men were held without bail by a coroner's jury. Alice's abortion was typical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was performed by a physician. Since there will always be quacks willing to perpetrate abortions, and family and friends willing to participate in arranging them, we need to make sure laws are written in such a way that those who help women to seek prompt medical care afterward will not be discouraged from doing so for fear of prosecution.

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. Preventing abortion deaths needs to be a multidisciplinary effort --
  • Continued improvement in, and access to, medical care
  • Improved access to resources that help women to avoid abortions
  • Increased community awareness of the preventability of abortion

external image MaternalMortality.gif

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