The first abortion was clearly criminal. On July 9, 1915, 26-year-old Mamie Arkins died at 1508 E. 57th Street in Chicago after an abortion committed by an unknown perpetrator.
The second abortion was of the safe and legal variety. Erika C. Peterson, age 28, was admitted to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California on July 11, 1961, due to trouble breathing. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and placed in a tank respirator. Erika was at that time in the first trimester of pregnancy. Her physicians made the decision to abort her child as soon as she was well enough to undergo the abortion. Abortion was, at that time, legal only to try to save the life of the mother.
On July 21, Erika's condition had improved, and her husband signed the consent form for the abortion, which was scheduled to take place two days later. The abortion was started as scheduled on July 23. Erika went into cardiac arrest during the procedure and was unable to be resuscitated. The abortion that was intended to save her life ended her life instead. After autopsy, it was concluded 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 initiated in Kansas, where third trimester abortions such as Christin's were only legal if 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.