Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Six Wasted Lives, Over More than a Century

On July 21, 1886, Mrs. Fred Winkleman was found dead in her Cincinnati home from a botched abortion. The last survivor of the Miller family, she had a small fortune of $13,000 which she had given over to Fred at their marriage four months earlier. Winkleman was arrested and freed on $5,000 bail. Police believed that Fred, a 26-year-old druggist, had intended his wife's death in order to have free use of the money.

“Phoenix, July 21 [1891]-- Mrs. Alice White, the victim of the sensational abortion case, died this afternoon. Dr. Helm's bondsman immediately withdrew and he was again taken to jail. A warrant is out for the young man interested in the case.” The accused abortionist, Dr. Scott Helm, was described as "one of the best and most prominent physicians in Phoenix."

A headshot of a young woman with short, thick hair
Elizabeth Radcliffe
Late in the evening of July 21, 1916, 21-year-old Roy Hinterliter showed up at a sanitarium in Olney, Illinois with a young woman, Miss Elizabeth Radcliffe, slumped over onto his lap in his buggy. Elizabeth, age 17, was immediately pronounced dead. It was eventually learned that she had died at a rural trysting spot near a bridge, where investigators found imprints of Elizabeth's hands and Hinterliter's feet in the sand. An autopsy confirmed pregnancy, but showed no external signs of violence and all her reproductive organs appeared normal. However, upon cutting open her heart, air escaped. After interviewing two boys who knew Hinterliter, authorities concluded that he had purchased a catheter, which could have been used to empty Elizabeth's uterus using suction. However, Hiterliter had likely blown into the catheter instead, causing an air embolism that would have been instantly fatal. Hinterliter was held without bail, and under guard for fear of a lynching, after the coroner's jury verdict. The case caused a sensation not only for the nature of the crime, but because Elizabeth was the county's first murder victim in 20 years.

On July 21, 1907, homemaker Madeline Paffrath died at German American Hospital in Chicago. She was approximately 21 years old. The coroner's jury determined that she had died from an abortion performed. They held two midwives -- Alice Rastone and Hacrone Schuetner -- responsible. Another woman, Alice F. Gustafson, whose profession is given as "abortion provider" was also arrested.

On July 21, 1923, 28-year-old Mrs. Mary Federowicz died at Chicago's St. Mary's Hospital from complications performed that day. Mrs. Anna Mithnewicz, whose profession was not given, was identified by the coroner as the person responsible, but no arrest was made.

A smiling young Black woman with long, straightened hair.
Tonya Reaves, age 24, was rushed to Northwest Memorial Hospital in Chicago and pronounced dead at 11:20 p.m. on Friday, July 21, 2012. She was taken there from the Planned Parenthood facility which advertises abortions up to 18 weeks. To put Tonya's death into context, note that the Centers for Disease Control published back in 1983, "Deaths from hemorrhage associated with legal induced abortion should not occur." In every hemorrhage death they investigated, "Lack of adequate postoperative monitoring or treatment of hemorrhagic shock" was a factor. Tonya's death was no exception. Her abortion was performed at 11:00 a.m., but she remained at the facility for hours until finally an ambulance was called, taking her to the hospital at 4:30 p.m. Doctors performed an ultrasound, followed by another D&E procedure, though it is unclear whether they were removing retained tissue or aborting a second fetus. Tonya had continued pain and bleeding, so a second ultrasound was performed, revealing a uterine perforation. It is unclear whether this was a perforation from the initial D&E at Planned Parenthood or from the follow-up at the hospital. Regardless of the source of the perforation, Tonya was returned to surgery, where “an uncontrollable bleed was discovered.” She was pronounced dead at 11:20 p.m.

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