Saturday, October 25, 2014

When Abortion Deaths Weren't Brushed Off

On a mid-October day, October 12, to be specific, 33-year-old homemaker Agnes Johnson went to the Chicago office of Dr. Joseph Stern for an abortion.
 
After leaving Stern's office, Agnes took ill. She died on October 26.
 
Had the year been 2009, Stern could have expected prolifers to take to the internet with pictures from Agnes's Facebook page and to pester the Illinois medical board to investigate the circumstances of Agnes' death. And unless the board found something Gosnellesque -- say, a high school student administering massive amounts of powerful drugs or rows of severed fetal feet in specimen containers or a room full of soiled recliners upon which women writhed and moaned while waiting for their abortions to be completed -- that would probably be the end of it. The board would declare that Stern had done no wrong and as long as Stern didn't Google his dead patient's name, he'd probably never have to give Agnes another thought.
 
The absolute worst case scenario for Stern had the year been 2009, or 1999 or 1989 or even 1979, would have been that Agnes' survivors would have sued him. Again, unless there was some Gosnellesque behavior, the insurance company would take care of all that and it would all blow over. Stern could go about his business unimpeded. 
 
Agnes Johnson
But the year was 1929, and an abortion patient's death wasn't something that could be shrugged off as one of those things that just happen and only weirdo right-to-lifers could possibly get their knickers into a twist over. This was 1929, and a woman's abortion death was homicide. Stern was arrested that day, and on November 1, he was indicted for felony murder by a grand jury.

I've been unable to find out what repercussions there were for Stern beyond the indictment. One thing is safe to say, though: His life would have been a lot easier had abortion been legal.

Whether Agnes would have benefitted is another matter.

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