Tuesday, November 18, 2014

No Evidence of Induced Abortion for Pauline Roberson Shirley

On November, 13, I blogged about the lack of information verifying the purported illegal abortion death of Pauline Roberson Shirley. Pauline's is one of a cluster of stories abortion-rights activists use to exemplify illegal abortion deaths.

I'd always known there was a significant problem with their claim about Becky Bell -- there is absolutely zero evidence that Becky underwent an abortion. Every piece of evidence in her death indicates that she had a miscarriage while dying of the same strain of pneumonia that killed Muppets creator Jim Henson.

Up until today, I'd been unable to find a scintilla of information about Pauline Roberson Shirley outside of verbatim repetitions on abortion-rights web sites:

They indicate that Pauline and her six children lived with her mother in Arizona while her husband was in California looking for work. They indicate that Pauline had an illegal abortion (without providing any information about a method or a perpetrator), was hospitalized, and bled to death. They add that Pauline's mother was searching for a blood donor.

Well, today I finally tracked down Pauline Shirley's death certificate.

The death certificate straightforwardly indicated that yes, Pauline Shirley, born June 2, 1910, died in an Arizona hospital. The date disagrees slightly, with the death certificate saying August 23, 1940, rather than the August 22 that is on the prochoice sites.

One can also easily piece together from the information that Pauline was indeed living with her mother. She also wasn't living with her husband -- because she wasn't married any more. But that's really not significant. (Of course, how many children she had and what her mother was doing during Pauline's final hours won't be on a death certificate one way or the other.)

The cause of death section indicates "secondary anemia" and "uterine hemorrhage," which I would say substantiates that Pauline had bled to death.

But the abortion-rights websites deviate from the death certificate in one extremely important way:


The cause of death is noted as "incomplete abortion, spontaneous (?)" "Abortion" is the medical term for a miscarriage. So what the medical examiner was indicating when he completed the death certificate was that it looked as if Pauline had died from a miscarriage, but he wasn't 100% sure.

There is a section of the death certificate for information about external causes of death. This section is completely blank, even after an autopsy. That means that there were no signs that anybody had used instruments of any kind -- either of the medical or "coat hanger" type -- to perform an abortion on Pauline.

This doesn't rule out abortifacients, of course. Pauline might have drunk an herbal tea or used some other concoction. But in order to substantiate the assertion that Pauline died from an illegal abortion, rather than just died from complications of a miscarriage, there would have to be some documentation other than endless repetition of the same words on scads of abortion-rights web sites.

I can never say with 100% certainty that Pauline didn't use some sort of abortifacient. But by far the preponderance of evidence that I've been able to uncover is that Pauline's death was not a criminal abortion death.

Frankly, I can't understand why they keep using Becky Bell, for whom there is absolutely zero evidence of an illegal abortion, and Pauline Shirley, for whom there is merely the inability to prove that it was not an illegal abortion. There are plenty of verifiable illegal abortion deaths with abundant documentation supporting them. I've done all the legwork already!

But nothing seems able to break into or out of the prochoice echo chamber, not even evidence like autopsy reports and death certificates.

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