Midwife's Fatal Work, Chicago, 1907
On January 15, 1907, 24-year-old housekeeper Sarah Cushing died in Wesley Hospital in Chicago, from septicemia caused by a criminal abortion perpetrated on December 29 at the home of a midwife named Gertrude Plenz, who was arrested on January 24, and held by the coroner's jury. Mrs. Plenz was also arrested in the abortion death ofMargaret McCarthy in 1904.
Tip-Off to Coroner Reveals 1915 Chicago Abortion Death
On January 15, 1915, 22-year-old Margaret Jenickes died in Chicago. Somebody tipped off the coroner that there was something fishy about Margaret's death. "Mourners over the girl's body were surprised by a visit from Coroner's Physician Springer. He performed an autopsy and changed the death report from dilation of the heart to peritonitis." The cornoer's office declared that the infection had been caused by an abortion presumably perpetrated by Dr. C.A. Erickson. Erickson was charged with murder; a man named Joseph Martin was also held for manslaughter. Though Erickson was indicted on February 1, the case never went to trial because the men were exonerated by a Grand Jury. No other suspect in Margaret's death is mentioned in my sources. I've been unable to determine why Erickson was a suspect.
1923: Dr. Charles Klinetop's Second Dead Abortion Patient
On October 16, 1923, 19-year-old Mrs. Lydia Nelson died at Chicago's Englewood Hospital from an abortion performed there that day, evidently by Dr. Charles Klinetop. On January 15, 1924, Klinetop was indicted by a grand jury for felony murder in Lydia's death. Back in 1912, he had been identified by a coroner's jury as the doctor responsible for the abortion death of Minnie Miller. Lydia's abortion was typical of criminal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.
Midwife's Fatal Efforts, Chicago, 1926
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. 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.
Dangerous and Obsolete Abortion Method Kills Teen in 1986
Christella Forte, age 16, screamed, convulsed, and went into cardiac arrest 27 hours after instillation of saline for an abortion. at New Centre Hospital in Detroit on January 14, 1986. She died without ever expelling the 23-week fetus.The concentrated salt solution that had been injected into Christella's uterus to kill the fetus got into her bloodstream, poisoning her and causing cardiac arrest. Strangely, her death certificate lists her manner of death as "natural," rather than "accidental," indicating an odd judgment call on the medical examiner's behalf.
A medical journal article that appears to be about Christella's death says that she was an obese Black girl experiencing her first pregnancy. The article gives the gestational age as 21.5 weeks. Nothing seemed to have gone wrong with the injection, until 26 hours afterward when she "complained of severe abdominal cramps with projectile expulsion of amniotic fluid. Generalized convulsions and shaking followed and the patient went into shock. Death occurred within 2 hours."
"At autopsy, microscopic examination of lungs revealed pulmonary edema with marked vascular congestion..... Positive test results ... confirmed a diagnosis of amniotic fluid embolism. There was marked congestion of the blood vessels of the kidneys, liver, brain, and spleen."
What is particularly disgusting about Christella's death is how utterly needless it was: saline abortions had been discredited as far too dangerous for over a decade. The documents surrounding her death do not explain why her abortionist chose an outdated, high-risk procedure for his young patient.
Screw-Up Instantly Kills Abortion Patient in 1987
Thirty-eight-year-old Pamela Wainwright and her husband had two children living at home, one of whom had Down Syndrome. Pamela was admitted to Shallowford Community Hospital in Dunwoody, Georgia on January 15, 1987, for an abortion and tubal ligation. Pamela was 11 weeks pregnant. Pamela was taken to the operating room for her surgery the next day. The abortion and tubal ligation were to be performed by Dr. Wendell Phillips. Phillips placed a needle into Pamela's abdomen to pump in carbon dioxide. He did not ensure proper placement of the needle. Instead of pumping carbon dioxide into her abdomen, he pumped it into her bloodstream. Pamela died almost immediately from cardiac arrest, due to vapor lock in her heart.
Patient Left to Bleed Out in Care of Receptionist in 1989
Eurice Agbagaa, a 26-year-old immigrant from Ghana, went to Abram Zelikman for a safe, legal abortion on January 7, 1989. Zelikman estimated the pregnancy as 11 to 12 12 weeks. He performed the abortion at about 1pm, then sent Eurice to the recovery room. Over the next 2 1/2 hours, Eurice bled so heavily that the receptionist, Yolanda Penalzer, became alarmed and asked Zelikman to do something. Zelikman told her that the bleeding was normal and that she should put an ice bag on the patient. He then left the facility, leaving Yolada to care for the patients in recovery.
Yolanda continued to be concerned about Eurice's bleeding, and tried repeatedly to reach Zelikman at his home, but couldn't contact him. Finally she called an ambulance. The ambulance crew found Yolanda performing CPR on Eurice, who was in shock. They were able to restore her breathing and transport her to a hospital, where an emergency hysterecomy was done. It was determined that Eurice had actually been at least 19 weeks pregnant. Eurice had a perforated uterus and severed abdominal artery. Eurice survived the surgery and was put on life support, but remained in a coma until her death in the early morning of January 15.
Eurice isn't the only woman who ended up having an abortion far later in the pregnancy than she intended. read more about **Unintended Late Abortions**.