Saturday, March 02, 2013

What Advantage to Dying from a Safe, Legal Abortion?

Jammie Garcia, age 15, underwent a safe, legal abortion performed by John Coleman at Mosche Hachamovitch's A to Z abortion facility on February 18, 1994. Four days later she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of a Houston hospital, with spiking fever, chills, nausea, pain, respiratory distress, a distended abdomen, low blood oxygen levels, and foul-smelling discharge. Her condition deteriorated until her death on March 2. The autopsy found that Jammie's body was wracked with abscesses, spreading infection that had entered her body through the damage the abortion had done to her uterus. After Jammie's death, the state inspected A to Z.  Staff were inadequately trained in how to sterilize instruments. The administrator was evidently aware that the autoclave used to sterilize instruments was not functioning properly. As for the instruments themselves, they were dirty and in poor condition. Legalization, and the promise of state oversight, had done nothing to ensure that Jammie would never be subjected to an unsafe abortion. As for Hachamovitch, I know that at least six abortion patients are known to have died either under Hachamovitch's direct care or under the care of an employe at one of his clinics. Tanya Williamson was inadequately monitored in recovery and allowed to lapse into respiratory arrest. Luz Rodriguez bled to death in 1986. Christina Goesswein was brought her to Hachamovitch's office at 4 a.m. to treat grave complications. Lisa Bardsley bled to death on the way home from her safe, legal abortion at one of Hachamovitch's facilities in Arizona. Lou Anne Herron's pleas for help went unheeded as she bled to death in Hachamovitch's Arizona abortion clinic.

Sixteen-year-old Erica Richardson was brought to Dr. Gene Crawford by her aunt on March 1, 1989 for a safe, legal abortion. Erica's aunt reported that Crawford left the girl unattended for four hours after her abortion, then at 11PM carried her to the car and instructed her aunt to take her home.Erica's aunt, a nurse, instead took the girl to a hospital. Erica died of an embolism (foreign matter or air in the bloodstream) shortly after midnight on March 2.Erica's mother had not known that her daughter was going to have an abortion. I can only imagine the family and personal turmoil caused by this deadly secret.

Elizabeth Tsuji, a 21-year-old Cal State student, underwent a safe and legal 8-week abortion at a Planned Parenthood on November 11, 1977. She called the clinic in December to report that she was still not menstruating, but staff assured her that the abortion had been successful. On February 1, 1978, Elizabeth confirmed that she was indeed still pregnant, five months along. The Planned Parenthood clinic referred her to Inglewood General Hospital for a saline abortion. That evening, she packed a nightgown and told her family she was going to spend the night at a friend's house. That was the last time they saw her alive. Elizabeth underwent the abortion on February 2, and died that day. Two autopsies were performed, neither of which could find a definitive cause of the young woman's death. Abortionist Morton Barke was somehow involved, although documents aren't clear what his role was. Barke also worked at the unsavory San Vicente Hospital. He is known to have been a partner at Inglewood and to have been involved in the deaths of Yvonne Tanner and Lynette Wallace. Other women who met their deaths at Inglewood include Kathy Murphy, Cora Lewis, and Belinda Byrd.

I am very curious as to the advantage Jammie, Tanya, Luz, Christina, Lisa, Lou Anne, Erica, Elizabeth, Yvonne, Lynette, Kathy, Cora, and Belinda had over the supposedly less fortunate women who preceded them in death.

On Saturday, February 16, 1918, Nikola Wojnovvich said, his 26-year-old wife, Mary, seemed unwell after dinner, very unstable on her feet. Nikola asked her what was wrong, and she said that perhaps she had caught cold. She asked him to help her to bed. He sent for Dr. Zabaranko, who examined her and prescribed some medication.Over the ensuing days, Mary's condition continued to worsen, so on February 21, Zabaranko sent her to  Pittsburgh's South Side Hospital, where Dr. S. A. Beddall admitted her for treatment for “incomplete abortion and pelvic peritonitis due to self inflicted abortion at home 2 weeks ago.”After Mary's death, at about 2:00 on the morning of Saturday, March 2, Dr. Henry Klinzing jotted a note to the coroner on a prescription pad saying that Mary, a homemaker and Croatian immigrant, had made a deathbed statement to him on March 1, saying “she inserted a stick of wood into the uterus to bring on menstruation feeling she was pregnant. From this she developed a pelvic peritonitis and subsequently a septic pneumonia from which she died.”

On March 2, 1914, 32-year-old Hannah Olson, a homemaker, died in Chicago, on the scene of an abortion performed that day by an unknown perpetrator.

Abortionist Lucy "Louise" Hagenow
On March 2, 1906, Miss Lola Madison, a stenographer from Salt Lake City, Utah, died from an abortion at Passavant Hospital in Chicago. She was 28 years old. Lola had gone to Chicago on the advice of a friend and made straight for Lucy Hagenow's practice, where she remained for several days. Somehow, her sister learned where Lola was and went to check on her. She found Lola seriously ill, and had her brought to the hospital before notifying the police. The building where Lola said she had her abortion was Hagenow's medical practice. A police officer took  Hagenow to Lola's hospital room on the afternoon of February 20. He asked Lola, "Do you know this woman?" To which Lola replied, "Oh, yes, that is the doctor." Hagenow was arrested and held by the coroner's jury March 3. Because of technical issues with the indictment, the case was dropped on July 22, 1907. Hagenow, who had already been implicated of the abortion deaths of Louise Derchow, Annie Dorris, Abbia Richards, and Emma Dep in San Francisco, would go on to be linked to over a dozen Chicago abortion deaths, including: Hannah Carlson, Sophia Kuhn , Emily Anderson, Marie Hecht, May Putnam, Annie Horvatich, Lottie Lowy, Nina H. Pierce, Jean Cohen, Bridget Masterson, Elizabeth Welter, and Mary Moorehead. Clearly the authorities were not taking sufficient action to keep this dangerous abortionist away from the women she victimized; abortion-related bribery was exposed all over the city of Chicago and might explain Hagenow's ability to remain free for most of the years of her adult life.

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

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