Erika had entered the hospital on July 11, 1961 during the first trimester of pregnancy, because of problems breathing. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and placed in a tank respirator. Her physicians made the decision to abort her child as soon as she was well enough to undergo the abortion. On July 21st, Erika's condition was improved, and her husband signed the consent form for the abortion, which was scheduled to take place two days later. Erika went into cardiac arrest during the abortion and was unable to be resuscitated. The abortion that was intended to save her life ended her life instead. After autopsy, it was believed that Erika's original illness was caused by a hereditary disease that was exacerbated by the medications she was taking for her schizophrenia.
Erika'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.
- Anjelica Duarte sought an abortion on the advice of her physician, and ended up dying under the care of a quack.
- 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.
- "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.