Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Years Eve in Chicago, 1917 and 1986

Chicago, 1917

On December 31, 1917, 40-year-old homemaker Victoria Chmileuski died in her Chicago home from an abortion perpetrated by Wilhemena Benn, whose profession is given only as "abortion provider," though she was actually a licensed midwife. Benn was acquitted on March 7, 1918. Benn had been previously charged in the June, 1916 abortion death of Rosie Kawera and the March 2, 1906 abortion death of Otilia Winker.

Chicago, 1986

Headshot of a bald, middle-aged Black man in a white shirt and dark necktie
Arnold Bickham
Eighteen-year-old Sylvia Moore underwent a safe and legal abortion at the hands of Arnold Bickham on December 31, 1986 at his Urgent Medical Care Clinic in Chicago. She was in the second trimester of her pregnancy, but Bickham used a suction technique suitable for a first-trimester pregnancy. After the abortion, 48-year-old Bickham gave Sylvia repeated injections of Demerol because she was reporting severe abdominal cramps.

According to Sylvia's mother, Sylvia was bleeding, weak, and unable to walk. When Sylvia tried to get to her feet and collapsed, Bickham called her "lazy," put her in a wheelchair, and physically ejected her from his Chicago clinic. Sylvia's mother took her to a nearby hospital, where staff tried in vain to save Sylvia, who had arrived with no pulse and no blood pressure. An emergency hysterectomy was done to remove her lacerated uterus, which still had a plastic instrument embedded in a 6.5 cm laceration. Sylvia also had a 2.2 cm laceration of her vagina. Despite the surgery, she bled to death.

Bickham claimed that he "didn't think there was anything wrong" with Sylvia, and said that he'd merely been helping her with the wheelchair. He blamed Sylvia's death on the hospital, saying, "They were successful in repairing the damage done in the abortion, but in doing that, they perforated an artery causing there to be blood loss in the chest cavity. That was something she was not able to survive."

The autopsy report, however, noted the chest tube incision but noted "lungs are well expanded and the pleural cavities are free of fluid and adhesions." An attorney with the Department of Professional Regulation said, "This patient should never have been allowed to leave Bickham's clinic with her mother."

The postmortum report said: "The circumstances of injury, review of the Medical records, the findings at autopsy examination, and subsequent investigation of the circumstances of the case provide evidence of gross negligence and abandonment on the part of the original treating physician. In consideration of the above, the manner of death is determined to be Homicide." However, no charges were pressed against Bickham.

The suit filed by Sylvia's survivors noted that Bickahm had failed to perform an ultrasound, and failed to have adequate staff or equipment. The specimen of abortion tissue sent from clinic contained segments of placental tissue, umbilical cord, and fetal intestinal parts and liver.

Sylvia left one child motherless.

Bickham's license was revoked by Illinois in October of 1988 due to Sylvia's death. He was arrested in September of 1989 for practicing medicine without license, and sentenced to 30 months probation and 2,600 hours of community service in lieu of 6 months jail, in addition to a $10,000 fine.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Chicago Death from 1924

On December 30, 1924, 21-year-old Agnes Nazar, an immigrant from Persia (modern-day Iran), died at Chicago's St. Joseph's Hospital from an abortion performed earlier that day. On January 6, 1925, Rogie Hatal was held by the coroner as the guilty abortionist. Hatal's profession is not listed.

Mike Nazar, her husband, was arrested as an accessory, as was Sarah Babian. Hatal was indicted for felony murder on February 15, 1925.

Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see
Abortion in the 1920s.

During the first two thirds of the 20th Century, while abortion was still illegal, there was a massive drop in maternal mortality, including mortality from abortion. Most researches attribute this plunge to improvements in public health and hygiene, the development of blood transfusion techniques, and the introduction of antibiotics. Learn more
here.



Death From Abortion-Rights Book Verified, Added to Cemetery of Choice

My original source for this story was the "Detective Jack" chapter of Patricia G. Miller's book, The Worst of Times. Miller doesn't substantiate the story in any way, nor does she provide any source other than the man identified as "Detective Jack". Detective Jack does not give the woman's name, so I will call her "Sophia". I had her story on the Cemetery of Choice, but did not have her name on the lists because until this month I had been unable to verify the story.

The Original Story

On December 27, 1967, Sophia traveled from Youngstown, Ohio, to Duquesne, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to have an abortion performed by a Dr. Benjamin King. Sophia was a 19-year-old freshman at Ohio State University. She got King's contact information from her boyfriend, who was also 19 years old. King put out word about his services on college campuses in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Sophia's boyfriend accompanied her to King's office. They paid him $300 for the abortion. The young couple returned to Youngstown, where Sophia was promptly hospitalized. She died the next day. King had perforated her uterus, according to "Dr. Clay" in Miller's book. Detective Jack said that when they went to arrest King, "we nearly had a riot on our hands." Unsavory people had turned up on large numbers to protect him.

Though King was a reputable physician, he drifted into illegal activities. In addition to his arrests for abortion (He had injured two women prior to the fatal abortion on Sophia.), he was arrested in 1968 for failure to report a gunshot wound and in 1970 for selling narcotics.

According to Dr. Clay, King was eventually sent to prison for Sophia's death.

Confirmation

I was able to confirm and add to "Detective Jack's" story as archived newspapers became available online. King was in his 40s at the time of the abortion and his arrest. The location of his practice was alternatively given as McKeesport, Homestead, and Aliquippa, all in the vicinity of Pittsburgh. King had a history of being an abortionist, and was awaiting trial for another case in which the woman had survived at the time of Sophia's fatal abortion.

The young man who had accompanied Sophia for the abortion told police that he had called King on December 29 to say that she was very ill. Sophia died on December 30 at South Side Hospital in Youngstown.

The young man had been unable to pay King the entire $300 fee at the time of the abortion. After speaking to Police, he arranged to meet the doctor to hand over the rest of the money, whereupon the police quickly arrested King.

King was indeed sentenced to prison for Sophia's death, as well as for the non-fatal abortion the year before Sophia's death. His wife, Regina, had also been convicted as an accessory before the fact in that abortion, having collected the woman's $250 fee.

While awaiting trial for Sophia's death, King and three of his relatives (his brother, stepson, and stepson's wife) were arrested in Brooklyn on charges relating to $15,000 worth of narcotics found in King's car.

The court decision reversing King's conviction in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision noted "In the course of the abortion, Dr. King perforated the decedent's cervix. She sustained peritonitis, massive hemorrhaging and, as a consequence, suffered severe traumatic shock. The patient expired on December 30, 1967, two days after the abortion procedure."

Sophia's abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Illegal in Chicago, Safe and Legal Nationwide

On December 29, 1907, 19-year-old Marcie Mayer died in St. Elizabeth's hospital in Chicago from complications of a criminal abortion. Mary Bing, a midwife, was arrested, tried, and sentenced to Joliet. A man named John Mansfield was also held by the coroner's jury, but acquitted by the judge. Marcie's abortion was atypical in that it was not performed by a physician.

"Beth" was 23 years old when she traveled from Massachusetts to take advantage of New York's liberalized abortion law in 1971. Beth's doctor chose saline abortion, which is performed by injecting a strong salt solution into the amniotic fluid. The fetus inhales and swallows the fluid, which causes massive internal bleeding and death. The woman then goes into labor. The abortion was initiated by injecting saline into Beth's uterus. But instead of the amniotic sac, the saline went into Beth's bloodstream. Beth immediately began to have seizures and went into a coma. She was pronounced dead on December 29, 1971.

Mary Ann Page is one of the women Life Dynamics identifies on their "Blackmun Wall" as having been killed by a safe and legal abortion. She was 36 years old when she went into cardiac arrest during an abortion/tubal ligation performed under general anesthesia on December 28, 1977. Both procedures were completed, then Mary Ann was taken to the Intensive Care Unit at St. Luke's Hospital. Mary Ann suffered several more cardiac arrests while she was in the ICU. She was pronounced dead on December 29, 1977.

On December 29, 1987, 31-year-old Sheila Watley had a safe, legal abortion at Concerned Women's Center in Houston, Texas. She was 17 weeks pregnant, and had one child. The abortion was performed byDr. Richard Cunningham. About four minutes into the procedure, Sheila went into cardio-respiratory arrest. She was pronounced dead later that day. The cause of death was listed as an amniotic fluid embolism, which is when fluid from the uterus gets into the woman's blood stream. From a search on information about Cunningham's license, a lawsuit was filed against him that might have pertained to Sheila's death; the case in question was dismissed, according to information Cunningham gave the Texas medical board. 

Hoa Thuy "Vivian" Tran, like Holly Patterson, got abortion drugs at a Planned Parenthood. Vivian was 22 years old, and died December 29, 2003, six days into the abortion process. She‘d been given the drugs on December 23 at the Costa Mesa Planned Parenthood facility. The autopsy showed that she died of sepsis. Vivian‘s husband is suing the drug company, Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernadino Counties, and The Population Council Inc., in Orange County Superior Court. Planned Parenthood spokesperson Kimberlee Ward said that PP has "absolute confidence in this method of abortion," which is hardly surprising. After all, Vivian‘s fetus died, leaving PP with nothing to complain about. Other women identified as having died of infection deaths after RU-486 deaths in the Los Angeles area: Chanelle Bryant, and Oriane Shevin. Chanelle got her abortion drugs at a Planned Parenthood, and Oriane and Vivian got theirs from National Abortion Federation members.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Unknown Perp's Fatal Work, 1921

On December 28, 1921, 30-year-old housekeeper Belle Keehn died at the Chicago Lying-In Hospital from lung abscesses and septicemia caused by an abortion perpetrated by an unknown doctor on or about November 27.
Documents are unclear as to how it was determined that the perpetrator was a doctor. The hospital was a reputable facility, not a seedy abortion mill, so Belle would have received superior care as doctors tried to save her life.

Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1920s.

For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Atlanta Doc's Fatal Work, 1985

Arnetta Hardaway was 18 years old when she had a mid-trimester abortion performed by Dr. George Tucker in Atlanta on December 23, 1985.

Arnetta continued to bleed, and developed infection, after her abortion. On December 27, she died from her complications.

Tucker had an active medical board order on his license as of January 4, 2002. The Georgia medical board web site does not reveal the details of the order.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Two Centuries, Three Women's Deaths

Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1885: Sylvia Sawdy 

In 1885, Harry McDowell began calling at the home of Dr. Truman Sawdy of Howard City, about 40 miles north of Grand Rapids, Michigan, to visit Dr. Sawdy's 21-year-old daughter, Sylvia. McDowell usually came on Sundays and in the evening, and also corresponded with Sylvia.

On December 10, Sylvia went to Grand Rapids by train, ostensibly to visit McDowell's mother. Dr. Sawdy heard nothing more from or about his daughter until the morning of Christmas Eve, when McDowell's father came to him, saying that he'd gotten a telegram or telephone call from his son. The senior McDowell said that Harry had told him that Sylvia was very sick and wanted her mother, Cornelia, to go to her.

Dr. Sawdy read the next day in the newspaper that his daughter was dead.

It came out in the trial that in November, Sylvia had consulted with Drs. Bodle, Hake, and Bradish, indicating that she was pregnant. Evidence indicated that McDowell had performed an abortion on Sylvia on December 23, and that she died that day. McDowell was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years.


New York, 1934: Loretta Wilson 

Loretta Wilson

On Christmas day of 1934, the nude body of a young woman was found under a pile of leaves in a thicket near a highway south of New York City. One source says that truck drivers found the body, another says it was spotted by two truck drivers.

The young woman was estimated to have been dead between 12 and 24 hours. Eventually the date of death was determined to be December 23.

Laura and Joseph Devine, whose 19-year-old daughter, Loretta Wilson, had been missing since December 19, contacted authorities and were able to positively identify the body. An autopsy revealed that she had bled to death from complications of an abortion.
 
Loretta had left home at noon on the 19th, telling the landlady that she was going to see a doctor. Her husband of two years, William, knew better. Though initially he'd denied even knowing that Loretta had been pregnant, he later said he'd paid Dr. John H. Becker Jr., age 52, $55 for the abortion. He added that his wife's friend, Kay Dinger, had been present when the transaction took place.

William, whose profession is alternatively given as a chauffeur and a truck driver, came home from work on December 19 to find Loretta not home. He assumed that she had gone to Becker for the abortion since he'd made the appointment for the 19th. He went to Becker's office and learned that she wasn't there, and the next day he reported her missing.

Becker admitted to having been paid $2 for examining Loretta on December 17, but denied perpetrating the abortion. He said that she was supposed to return on the 18th but failed to show up. However, his assertion that he'd not seen Loretta after the 17th was challenged by a witness who picked Becker out of a lineup of seven men as the one he'd seen standing by a car near the area where Loretta's body was found.

Becker was found guilty and sentenced to between 18 months and three years in Sing-Sing.

One more note: Loretta's abortion was typical of pre-Roe abortions in that it was performed by a physician


New York, 1970: "Kimberly" Roe

"Kimberly" is one of the women Life Dynamics identifies on their "Blackmun Wall" as having been killed by a safe and legal abortion.  Kimberly was 25 years old and 18 weeks pregnant when she underwent a safe, legal abortion under the new law, in New York City on December 23, 1970. During the abortion, she went into cardiac arrest and died, leaving behind two children.

1871 & 1891: Fishy Circumstaces Lead to Abortion Death Investigations

1871: Amanda McCoy

On December 28, 1871, an Illinois coroner's jury was called to investigate the December 22 death of Amanda McCoy. Amanda, a young widow who worked as a milliner in Crestline, OH, had died at the home of Dr. Fahlbusch, a German woman practicing as a midwife and described as "of good reputation."

At first, Amanda's body was being transported out of the city for burial, but due to the suspicious circumstances of her death, her body was ordered returned to Chicago for an inquest. The man accompanying the body, said to be engaged to marry Amanda, was taken into custody.

The Coroner's Jury concluded that Amanda had undergone her fatal abortion before coming into the city. Dr. Fahlbusch was cleared of any suspicion in Amanda's death.

1891: Tillie Thor

On December 22, 1891, a 21-year-old Swedish girl named Tillie Thor was found dead in a bed at the rear of the office of Dr. Franklin E. Brooks on Ogden Avenue in Chicago.

Brooks was unable to give an innocent explanation as to why Tillie was dead so he, along with George Lundy, a carpenter, were arrested. Lundy and Brooks had a longstanding friendship.

Tillie has been working as a domestic servant in the home of an upscale family until September of 1891. For a reason I've been unable to determine, she moved in with her sister, Christina Armblade, and Christina's husband, Frederick, on Sangamon Street.

Behind the Armblade house was George Lundy's carpentry shop. He offered her a job as his housekeeper, and she accepted, beginning her job on September 23. A short time later, Lundy relocated to Dussold Street, and against the vehement objections of her family, Tillie accompanied him. They had seen that Tillie was infatuated and feared that she's marry Lundy, a man they considered "odious." Tillie's brother-in-law went so far as to collect Tillie's belongings from Lundy's home and bring them to the Armblade family home.

Tillie sent Lundy to bring her things back to his home, and she remained there, though she spent a brief time at her sister's home in October to be attended during an illness. Her family's attempts to convince her to leave Lundy fell on deaf ears. Tillie said she knew the ways of the world and could take care of herself.

Tillie visited her family less and less often, though her 15-year-old sister, Alma, frequently visited her at Lundy's home. Alma said that Tillie seemed contented living with Lundy, but was disquieted by things she'd observed there, such as Lundy being present in Tillie's room while she was dressing or undressing.

One of Tillie's friends, Helma Boyer, testified that she'd frequently spent the night at the Lundy home and had sometimes seen Lundy sitting by Tillie's bed after Tillie had retired for the night.

However, around the 14th of December, Tillie informed Lundy that she was pregnant. He made arrangements to go to Brooks for the abortion on December 16. Tillie evidently was expecting the abortion and recovery to take several days, since her sister Alma reported that she'd visited Tillie briefly on the 16th and had seen her packing, ostensibly for a vacation. This prevented Tillie's family from having any suspicions regarding her absence from Lundy's home.

Tillie instead went to Brooks' practice. She never left alive. The abortion, which has been perpetrated by an undetermined means, triggered peritonitis. Brooks, who insisted that she'd only been suffering from stomach and bowel problems, kept her in the bedroom at the back of his office and attended her there until her death.

On December 20, Brooks had called in a second physician, Dr. James B. Williams, for a consultation on Tillie's case. Dr. Williams found Tillie, who had been identified to him as "Mrs. Wales," with a high fever and symptoms of the peritonitis that would eventually kill her. Dr. Williams found the whole situation fishy, advised Brooks to continue his current treatments and expressed a desire to extricate himself from situation.

Dr. Williams returned the following day with a Dr. Dal, and together the two doctors concluded that "Mrs. Wales" was suffering from complications of an abortion. They prescribed morphine for her and questioned her about how she'd come to be in her current condition. Eventually she confessed that she'd gotten pregnant by a man in his 40s, with whom she resided. However, she refused to provide the doctors with any clue as to her real identity. Dr. Dal questioned her alone to get a deathbed statement identifying her abortionist. When asked if Dr. Williams was the guilty party, Tillie answered with an emphatic, "No!" When asked if Brooks was the culprit, she gave no answer.

The two consultant doctors testified that Brooks' nephew, Mr. Wales, told them that his uncle was fretful about Tillie's condition and feared he'd go to prison.

For reasons I've been unable to determine, perhaps due to a tip-off by one of the consulting physicians, police staked out Brooks' office. They arrested Lundy first, when he'd approached at around 1 a.m. the day of Tillie's death with a paper with Brooks' address on it that somebody had shoved under his door.

Tillie's family, who had been tricked by the story of the vacation, were stunned by the news of her death.

Brooks had a history as an abortionist. Fifteen years earlier he'd served 18 months for perpetrating an abortion upon a young woman who survived her ordeal. So far I've been unable to determine the outcome of the Tillie Thor case.

Tillie's abortion was typical of those before legalization in that it was performed by a physician.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Two Criminal, Two Safe-and-Legal

On December 21, 1915, 34-year-old Mrs. Anna Hunt died at Chicago's Rhodes Avenue Hospital from complications of an abortion perpetrated that day by an unknown person.


On December 11, 1926, fifteen-year-old Emily Mueller underwent a criminal abortion somewhere in Chicago. She died on December 21. Midwife Magdelane Stegeman, maiden name Motzny, was booked on December 28. The coroner initially cleared Stegeman. She was nevertheless indicted for felony murder by the Grand Jury on February 15, 1927. Stegeman was later implicated in the 1941 abortion death of Rose Smith.


Denise Holmes, a 24-year-old Australian woman living in Texas, decided to undergo a safe and legal abortion at Avalon Hospital in Los Angeles, California, on her way home for Christmas of 1970. Denise checked into Avalon Hospital (an abortion facility owned by Edward Campbell Allred) on December 21. Denise suffered an amniotic fluid embolism that carried pieces of fetal bone marrow into her lungs. She was pronounced dead by Edward Allred at Avalon at 5pm. Denise is the first confirmed abortion death at an Allred facility, before the National Abortion Federation was founded, with Allred's Family Planning Associates Medical Group as a member. Other women known to have died after abortion at Allred's facilities include Patricia Chacon, Mary Pena, Josefina Garcia, Lanice Dorsey, Joyce Ortenzio, Tami Suematsu, Deanna Bell, Susan Levy, Christina Mora, Ta Tanisha Wesson, Nakia Jorden, Maria Leho, Kimberly Neil, Maria Rodriguez, and Chanelle Bryant.

Professional portrait of a middle-aged Black man
Earl McLeod
WAKE-UP has posted state medical board disciplinary documents against Dr. Earl McLeod (pictured),regarding the death of an abortion patient on December 21, 1997. WAKE-UP has identified her as 27-year-old Jennifer Halner. On December 20, 1997, she went to Potomac Family Planning for a safe, legal abortion. McLeod's anesthesiologist, identified only as Dr. K., started an IV, and Jennifer was hooked up to a cardiac monitor, blood pressure monitor, and pulse oximeter. Dr. K administered Versed (for sedation and memory impairment), Sublimaze (a short-acting narcotic used for short-duration pain control), Propofol (a sedative for anesthesia), with Lidocaine, a local anesthetic. Jennifer  was transferred to recovery at 10:10 a.m., still unconscious but breathing on her own. Her pulse was 103 (very rapid). A nurse identified only as Nurse W put an oxygen mask on her, but took off the cardiac monitor and pulse oximeter. Another nurse took off the blood pressure cuff to use on another patient. At around 10:20 a.m., Nurse W noticed that Jennifer was still unresponsive. She told a nursing assistant to get  Zofran, an antiemetic, from the anesthesiologist, who was in the second procedure room with McLeod. Dr. K gave the Zofran to Nurse W without evaluating the patient. Not surprisingly, this did nothing to revive Jennifer. Nurse W then asked Kr. K for Romazicon,  used to reverse the effects of anesthesia. Dr. K again provided the drug without examining the patient. Nurse H realized that couldn't find a pulse, and that Jennifer's pupils were dilated. She fetched Dr. K. He found Jennifer unresponsive, with a blood pressure an alarmingly low 60/40. He stared a second IV and began to perform CPR, using a pediatric-sized bag-valve mask. Meanwhile, McLeod performed two other procedures before finally entering the recovery room. He administered additional IV medications, and said that the patient was hooked up to an EKG monitor even though there was no documentation whatsoever of her cardiac rhythm. She was also not hooked up to a pulse oximeter that would tell the staff how much oxygen was in her blood. Dr. K told somebody to administer Epinephrine, Ephedrine, and Lidocaine -- all appropriate drugs. Finally, at around 10:42 a.m., McLeod told somebody to call 911. Paramedics arrived and found Jennifer in cardiac arrest. They noted that nobody had put a breathing tube into the patient to ensure that air was being pumped into her lungs and not her stomach. The medics immediately began appropriate resuscitation, intubating Jennifer, hooking her up to a cardiac monitor, defibrillating her, and administering appropriate drugs. The medics transported her to a to hospital, arriving at 11:09 a.m. The ER physician noted that Jennifer's pupils were fixed and dilated. After aggressive resuscitative efforts, her heart was restored to a stable rhythm, and she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. But despite their best efforts, she died at 4:15 a.m. on December 21. McLeod also ran the Hillcrest abortion mill in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where Kelly Morse had died in 1996 after being inadequately resuscitated. 
 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

1926: Chicago Midwife's Fatal Handiwork

On December 13, 1926, 23-year-old Chicago native Mary Paradowski underwent a criminal abortion.
She died on December 20 at Chicago Hospital.

On January 15, 1927, midwife Josephine Petrova was indicted for felony murder in Mary's death.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Chicago Death, 1921

On December 19, 1921, 18-year-old housekeeper Marie Pickle died in Chicago after an abortion perpetrated by Clarence Shoere, who was identified as a nurse or midwife. Shoere was held by the coroner but not tried.

Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1920s.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Two Illegal Deaths -- 1923 and 1982

On December 18, 1923, 40-year-old Sophia Hartozinski died at Chicago's County Hospital due to a criminal abortion performed there that day. The coroner identified midwife Mary Roback as having been responsible for Sophia's death. Keep in mind that things that may seem appalling to us in the early 21st century -- such as performing surgery in one's home -- was not appalling at the time. Things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1920s.

News articles indicate that Myrtha Baptiste, age 26, had a safe and legal abortion of her 10 week pregnancy performed by Orlando Zaldivar at Woman's Care Clinic December 18, 1982. Myrtha, a mother of two, arrived at the hospital in critical condition due to delay of transfer by the clinic staff. She bled to death from two uterine perforations. Zaldivar could not be reached for seven hours while hospital staff were struggling to save his patient's life. Since Zaldivar's license was inactive at the time he performed Myrtha's abortion, the CDC classified her death as being due to illegal abortion rather than legal abortion. This effectively hides her death from a legal abortion death tally. The other deaths at that facility -- Ruth Montero, Shirley Payne, and Maura Morales -- were counted as legal abortion deaths.

If you are tempted to attribute Sophia's death to the fact that abortion was illegal and Myrtha's (and Ruth's, Shirley's, and Maura's) to "all surgery has risks," consider the following graph. Legalization didn't even amount to a blip in the trend toward safer abortions for women.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Unknown Perp, December 17, 1914 Chicago

On December 17, 1914, 24-year-old Emma Fertig, wife of Edward Fertig, died at Chicago's West Side Hospital from an abortion performed by an unknown perpetrator. She left behind three children.

Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good.

In fact, due to improvements in addressing these problems, maternal mortality in general (and abortion mortality with it) fell dramatically in the 20th Century, decades before Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion across America.
For more information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Deadly Abortions: 1891, 1971, 1983

At around 9:10 p.m. on December 15, 1891, Dr. J. M. Ryall was called to the Pittsburgh home of 32-year-old Nancy Hildinger. He found her dead. Her family told Ryall that Nancy had been sick and bleeding from her period. He performed an autopsy. Nancy was a large, muscular woman weighing about 160 lbs. and found her uterus enlarged to about three months size, flabby, inflamed, and marked by an injury caused by some sort of instrument. She had already expelled the fetus. Her lungs were also congested. The coroner's jury found that Nancy had died at the hands of an unknown abortionist.

Twenty-year-old LaSandra Russ, from Berkley, California, went to Los Angeles to have an abortion on December 13, 1971. She was six weeks pregnant. At the time, abortions were legal in California as long as they were performed in a hospital. The abortion was performed at Memorial Hospital of Hawthorne the next day, December 14. LaSandra went into cardiac arrest almost immediately after the abortion. Attempts were made to revive her, but she was finally pronounced dead on December 15, 1971.

A professional portrait of a bald middle-aged white man evidenly in his 60s
Andre Nehorayoff
Abortionist Andre Nehorayoff was disciplined over the abortion death of "Faye Roe." She was 19 years old when she went to Nehorayoff's office for a safe and legal abortion on December 15, 1979. Nehorayoff failed to record an adequate history or medical exam for Faye. Nehorayoff left her in a recovery room at 2:25 p.m., without any monitoring. When somebody finally checked on her an hour later, she was cyanotic (blue) and had no pulse. She was pronounced dead at a hospital. Nehorayoff was also disciplined regarding Patient E, an 18-year-old patient who bled to death after Nehorayoff sent her home in 1983 with a fetal leg still in her uterus.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

An Embolism in 1984 and Sent Home to Bleed to Death in 1996

Thirty-year-old Sandra Williams was 11 weeks pregnant when she underwent an abortion on December 12, 1984 at a Pennsylvania location. She went home following the abortion. Less than twelve hours later, on December 13, she was dead. Her death certificate noted that she died from a pulmonary embolism

Add caption
Sharon Hamplton, age 27, went to Bruce Steir at A Lady's Choice Women's Medical Center for a safe, legal abortion on December 13, 1996. She was 20 weeks pregnant. Steir remained at the facility for about an hour after Sharon's abortion. She was still in the recovery room when he left. The statement Sharon's mother, Doris, made to the medical board can be found at ...And So I Could Hold You and You Could Go to Sleep. Here are some excerpts:

I saw Sharon in the recovery room about 3:30 or 4:00 pm. She looked so bad that I felt scared. She was laying on a lazyboy style chair with an IV in her left arm and a blood pressure cuff on the other. She looked very pale. Her eyes were partially open and I could see only the whites of her eyes as if she were in shock. She was not speaking and her whole body was shaking real hard in big shivers. Her legs were especially bad. The doctor said, "She doesn't react to drugs well." .... I went back to the waiting room and a Spanish lady came out and said that Sharon would be ready in a few minutes as soon as the IV finished.

Sharon was in the recovery for only about 45 minutes, because at 5:00 pm they came out and said she was ready to leave. I heard someone say that the doctor was real busy and he had to rush out like he was going to the airport, something about him having to go to Sacramento or San Francisco. I saw two women struggling to place Sharon in a wheelchair. Sharon could not walk at all and she was not speaking. She looked very, very pale now.
....
On the way home to Barstow, I stopped at Wendy's to get a sandwich for little Curtis. .... Sharon was lying in the backseat of the car and said to Curtis, "Come on back with me Curtis. I love you and so I could hold you and you could go to sleep." She was silent for about one hour. Near Victorville, she said, "I'm so hot. Please let the window down." I opened the window a bit. After that, Sharon was silent forever.

We got home to Barstow and I saw that Sharon, still laying in the back seat was naked from the waist up, having removed her shirt, shoes and socks. I started yelling, "Sharon. Sharon. Wake up," but she didn't and my husband, Ben Hamptlon, said, "Call 911."

According to Nancy Myles, an untrasound technician who was assisting Steir during Sharon's abortion, Steir was having trouble locating and extracting the fetal skull. She said that he looked at her strangely and said, "I think I pulled bowel."

BruceSteir.jpg
Bruce Steir
Steir was already on probation with the medical board at the time of Sharon's abortion; he had a history of botching abortions, including causing uterine perforations. He'd been found negligent in six abortion cases, including three in which the woman had to undergo a hysterectomy. One woman had to have a fetal skull removed from a tear in her uterus. Steir surrendered his licence in 1997, in the wake of the fallout surrounding Sharon's death.


Pro-choice organizations, including the national leadership of NOW, and the National Abortion Federation and the California Abortion and Reproduction Rights League, rallied around Steir. One supporter stood outside the courthouse with a sign reading, "Abortion doctors are heroes, defend Dr. Bruce Steir." The Feminist Women's Health Center in Chico, with whom he once was affiliated, set up a "defense committee" and raised funds for his legal expenses.

Joseph Durante, who owned the facility, was also on probation with the medical board at the time of Sharon's fatal abortion. He had attempted a late abortion which resulted in the birth of a live but injured infant.

Sharon was a single mother who worked part-time at Burger King while attending community college. Sharon's mother said that she wanted to go off welfare and become a nurse. California taxpayers funded the fatal abortion through Medi-Cal.


Steir eventually plea bargained. He was sentenced to a year in prison, with six months of the sentence suspended in leiu of community service. He was also given five years' probation. At the sentencing hearing, four years after Sharon's death, Sharon's father said he still often pulled his car to the side of the road, looked at his daughter's picture, and wept.

Steir was released after serving only four months of his sentence.

Again, from Doris Hamplton's statement:

I don't know how she heard about Dr. Durante's offices. I think he was recommended by the people at San Bernardino County Social Services or by Dr. Krider. Sharon was on Medi-Cal and had Pacific Care as the Medi-Cal managed care agent. I understand that because Dr. Durante and Dr. Steir were on probation they were not entitled to Medi-Cal payment, but they got it anyway. I understand that their office was not accredited as an ambulatory surgical office, and that it was supposed to be accredited to comply with the law. I had no idea that Dr. Durante and Dr. Steir were on probation with the Medical Board for incompetence and negligence against women patients. I am sure that Sharon did not know either. If I had known, I would never have taken Sharon to such a bad place with such bad doctors. I learned about their records in the newspaper articles.
....
I cry every day for the terrible loss of my daughter, and I am overwhelmed that 3 year old Curtis had his mother taken away forever. My husband, Ben Hamptlon, (father of Sharon), is sick with grief, has terrible head pain, is under the care of a doctor for this and has been taking strong pain medicine since Sharon's death. My prayer is that these doctors be stopped immediately so that no other girl will be killed and that no other family will have to suffer as we have.

Links about Sharon's death and the aftermath:
Abortion Doctor To Be Tried For Second-Degree Murder, Riverside Press-Enterprise, February 19, 1998
Death From Abortion Makes For Explosive Case, Legal Action for Women, 
Doctor Loses Bid to Avoid Murder Case, Riverside Press-Enterprise, July 11, 1998
History of Bruce Steir
Steir and NAF in Perspective
Second-Degree Murder Trial of California Abortionist Delayed
Abortionist Steir Pleads Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter for Botched Abortion
Abortion debate turns to doctor's murder case, Fresno Bee, Feb. 18, 1999
The Medical Board of California, Dr. Bruce Steir, and Anti-Abortion Politics, ACLU Reproductive Rights Project
Steir Defense Committee Update, Refuse & Resist

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Abortion Death That Led to a Death Sentence for Amante Rongetti

A balding, middle-aged white man with a mustache, clad in a suit and tie, sitting on a chair in front of a paneled wall
Dr. Amante Rongetti
The first man sentenced to die in Illinois's electric chair was not a typical death row inmate: he was a physician whose patient died from complications of an illegal abortion. Reporters covering the case in Chicago contended that Dr. Amante Rongetti was the first doctor in the United States ever sentenced to die over a patient's abortion death.

Rongetti had been convicted of murder in the December 11, 1927 abortion death of 19-year-old Loretta J. Enders and manslaughter in the death of her baby. Many factors disclosed in court helped to seal the jury's verdict:

  • Witnesses said that the baby had been born alive; Rongetti left it unattended to die, then threw the body in the furnace. Rongetti's nurse, Hazel Reed, reportedly fainted on the witness stand during Rongetti's trial after relating the deaths of Loretta and the baby.
  • After Loretta had developed sepsis (blood poisoning) from the abortion, Rongetti refused to provide follow-up care, including possibly life-saving additional surgery, because she had no money to pay him.
  • Not only did Rongetti refuse to provide the care himself, but he prevented Loretta from going elsewhere for fear his practice would be exposed.
  • Rongetti filed a falsified death certificate, claiming that Loretta had died of heart disease.
  • Rongetti refused to summon a priest to perform last rites for Loretta, again fearing exposure of his illegal practices.

News clipping head shot of youngish white woman wearing a tall cloche hat
Nurse Reed
Rongetti's defense claimed that Loretta came to him at his Ashland Boulevard Hospital after having undergone an illegal abortion elsewhere -- a claim that fell flat, considering the lack of proper aftercare.

The baby's father, William Cozzi, said that he'd taken Loretta to a midwife for an abortion a week before taking her to Rongetti for a second abortion after the first attempt had evidently failed. 

Lorraine Irwin, one of Rongetti's former nurses, testified that Rongetti had relayed this to her the day after he'd admitted Loretta to his hospital for the abortion. Irwin admitted that she had taken Loretta to Rongetti in his operating room, but muttered that "he didn't do anything." She said that she was later called into Loretta's room where she found the dead baby lying near its mother. She admitted that she had burned the baby's body.
.
Witnesses in the case said that they received threats to try to intimidate them. Two of Rongettis' nurses indicated that they feared for their lives if they testified.

Rongetti's death sentence was handed down by a Chicago jury of 11 married men and one widower on March 1, 1928, after three hours of deliberation. Rongetti's scheduled execution date was to be April 13, 1928. Rongetti reportedly stood stunned and quiet as the sentence was read, but his wife became hysterical, pushing her way through the courtroom crowd crying, "Let me out."

After the sentence was handed down, Rongetti's attorney, Scott Stewart, immediately filed motion for a new trial. The legal wrangling took a while. Rongetti spent a year on death row before being released -- whereupon he was promptly implicated in the criminal abortion death of Elizabeth Palumbo, who died May 23, 1929 after an abortion performed May 10.

He was tried again for Loretta's death in December of 1929. Rongetti found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 14 years in Joliet.

Loretta's abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

1998: Sloppy Anesthesia Practices Cost Teen her Life at NAF Clinic

On December 10, 1998, Nakia "Kia" Jorden, who would have graduated from Hyde Park High School in 2000, died of anesthesia complications during an abortion at the Albany Medical Surgical Center at 5086 North Elston Avenue in Chicago.
Family Planning Associates Medical Group, abortionist Steve Lichtenberg, and nurse anesthetist Lawrence Hill. FPA is a member of the National Abortion Federation.

According to an expert in anesthesia who reviewed Nakia's records, Nakia was obese, had a history of bronchitis, had some upper airway congestion, and had a pulse ox reading of only 94% when she was sedated for her abortion. The records from Albany indicate that "deep sedation if not general anesthesia was used," but Nakia was not given oxygen, and was not monitored by EKG as appropriate when administering this degree of anesthesia to an obese patient. There was no note of any proper method of monitoring Nakia while she was under sedation. Although she was entubated for anesthesia, there was no documentation that anybody verified proper placement of the endotracheal tube. Hill documented using only Brevital, but Lichtenberg noted administration of both Brevital and Stadol.

The greatest fault that the anesthesia expert found was that Hill, upon noting a pulse ox reading of only 74% -- clearly showing that Nakia was not getting nearly enough oxygen -- he did nothing to ensure that she was in fact getting enough oxygen into her lungs. Instead, he administered atropine to increase her heart rate, "which likely delayed the critical intervention of ventilating the patient with oxygen."
Other abortion patients who have lost their lives after entrusting them to FPA include:

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

"The Angel of Ashland" and the Death the Abortion Lobby Ignores


On Saturday, December 8, 1956, 26-year-old Mary Kathryn Davies of New York City arrived in the Ashland, Pennsylvania office of abortionist Dr. Robert Douglas Spencer. Mary, a part time student at Columbia University who worked at a rheumatic fever treatment center for children, was seeking an abortion. She was a native of Minnesota.

Pie chart showing 90% physicians, 5% untrained, 3% untrained, 2% selfAs a physician, Spencer was typical of criminal abortionists. What was unusual about him was that rather than sneak the woman in through the back alley, Spencer plied his abortion trade openly. Spencer was so well-known and admired in abortion-rights circles that he was dubbed "The Angel of Ashland."

The Fatal Abortion

According to Spencer, Mary was alone, and reported that she'd been bleeding for about two weeks. He didn't examine her, but gave her medication for pain and Ergotrate to stop the bleeding. He told her to return the following day for her abortion. Spencer didn't indicate why Mary would seek an abortion if her pregnancy seemed to be ending on its own, which bleeding certainly would indicate.

Mary returned at about 10 AM on the 9th. He administered 13 ccs. of Evipal in a 10% solution to induce anesthesia. "I injected that solution into the vein of the left arm and in ten seconds she was asleep." Spencer said that the next thing he noticed was that Mary wasn't breathing. She also appeared blue. He injected five ccc. of "Metrozol"(The drug is spelled "Metrozol" in Spencer's written statement. However, my web searches for "Metrozol" turn up a veterinary medication used to treat skin diseases in fish. Spencer clearly meant Metrazol, a drug used as a respiratory and circulatory stimulant.) into her left leg. She didn't respond, so he gave her an additional five ccs. of "Metrozol", this time injecting the drug into a vein. Mary still did not respond, so Spencer attempted to resuscitate her with oxygen. He called his assistant, Mildred Zettlemoyer, into the room to assist him. With Mary in Zettlemoyer's care, Spencer went to another part of the building to retrieve adrenaline. He gave Mary three injections of adrenaline.

Mary still was not responding, so Spencer had Zettlemoyer call the laboratory assistant, Steve Sekunda, and tell him to come to the office. Spencer put a breathing tube into Mary's throat, but had to work blind because the light on his scope wasn't working. He resumed artificial respiration, "and pulled on her tongue, but got no response." By the time Sekunda arrived, at around 11:30, Spencer had concluded that Mary was dead. The puzzled man concluded "that this patient died in my office from some heart disease."

Preparing for Trial

William J. Keuch, chief detective of Schuylkill (pronounced "school kill") County detective, said that Spencer had summoned him and informed him that he and his assistant had tried to revive Mary with medications and CPR to no avail. Keuch said that when he'd asked Spencer what a young woman from New York City was doing in Spencer's office in Ashland, Spencer answered, "I'm well known in the east. I specialize in women's diseases." Women, Spencer told Keuch, came to him from all over.

Spencer wasn't arrested until after 12 weeks of investigation, which included sending Mary's organs to Dr. Milton Helman, a member of the New York Medical Board, for toxicology review..

When the case was finally ready to go to court in May of 1958, the entire trial was derailed when, during jury selection, one woman asked to be excused because, she said, "I served on a jury in which Dr. Spencer was involved before." This statement was considered prejudicial to Spencer, thus tainting the other jurors.

Trial

Picture from the waist up of a white man, perhaps in his 60s, with his arms crossed in front of him. He is wearing eyeglasses, a white shirt with bow tie, and a dark apron.
Dr. Robert Spencer
Dr. Milton Helpern, chief medical examiner for New York City, was among the experts that testified in Spencer's trial for Mary's death. Helpern concluded that Mary had been pregnant, that the pregnancy had been terminated right before her death, and that she'd died from administration of a drug used for anesthesia for performing a D&C. Dr. Emmet Hobbs, a local pathologist, concluded that Mary had indeed been pregnant, that the fetus had been alive when Spencer had begun the abortion, and that there had been no medical or anatomical reason that an abortion would have been advised for Mary's health. In fact, The conclusion that the fetus had been alive, and that Spencer had not been treating Mary for a miscarriage, was based on injecting Mary's blood into a rabbit and a frog, with physiological responses in the animals being consistent with blood taken from a woman whose fetus was still alive, not a woman who was in the process of a miscarriage. Mary had been in good health prior to her death.

The defense argued that the tests using the rabbit and the frog were not 100% accurate, leaving open the possibility that Mary was in the process of miscarrying. The argument evidently worked; Spencer was acquitted.

Speculations

Patricia G. Miller, author of The Worst Of Times, asked another doctor, "Dr. Bert," who had practiced before legalization, to review news reports of Mary's death and speculate as to whether Mary would have died had abortion been legal.

"Dr. Bert" faulted Spencer for not having an assistant while he was administering general anesthesia. "In my view, to give a general anesthetic alone is below good medical care, even in those days." He speculated that Spencer had not had an assistant working with him due to the law against abortion -- an odd speculation, since Spencer was doing abortions quite openly, with at least one member of his staff present in the building. It's also an odd speculation considering how many legal abortionists have had patients die from anesthesia complications, either due to inadequate supervision of the anesthesia process or inadequate resuscitation efforts.

Spencer's Response

Spencer's widow, Eleanor, told Patricia Miller that her husband had been quite stricken by Mary Davies' death. He continued to perform abortions, however, along with his regular medical practice, up until the trial. He was acquitted on all counts, likely because it was impossible to prove that Mary hadn't either miscarried during those two weeks of bleeding prior to her appointment with Spencer, or been aborted by somebody else. No mention is made of any fetal remains being found in Mary's body or in Spencer's office.

Spencer briefly stopped doing abortions after the trial, "for a month or so," his widow said. But he resumed his business and eventually got entangled with a fellow named Harry Mace who set up a business for himself rounding up abortion patients and bringing them to Spencer. Spencer's widow lamented that Mace flooded Spencer with patients, pressuring him to rush through abortions. Spencer's health began to fail. He was arrested again, due to the attention from Mace's activities, but died before the case went to trial.

Mary Davies is the only woman known to have died from abortion related complications under Spencer's care. Spencer is estimated to have performed between 40,000 and 100,000 abortions.

Spencer in Context

During the 1950s, we see an anomaly: Though maternal mortality had been falling during the first half of the 20th Century, and abortion mortality in particular had been plummeting, the downward trend slowed, then reversed itself briefly. I have yet to figure out why. For more, see Abortion Deaths in the 1950's.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion.

Graph showing abortion deaths starting at nearly 1,400 in 1940, falling to around 250 in 1950, leveling off until around 1960 when it hit 300, falling again until about 100 in 1968, an uptick to around 200 in 1970, then falling steadily until around 1980, when it wavers at fewer than 20