Criminal Chicago: Two Habitually Deadly Female Doctors
On January 22, 1900, Mrs. Barbara Shelgren, age 25, died at Augustana Hospital in Chicago of an abortion performed that day. Paulina Bechtel, identified as a midwife in the Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database, was arrested and held by Coroner's Jury and indicted of homicide by a grand jury, but the case was thrown out by Judge Holdom. Kittie Bassett
In June of 1967, then-Governor Ronald Reagan signed a bill legalizing abortion in California. The earlier law, passed in 1861, had allowed abortion only if intended to save the mother's life. The 1967 law allowed abortions in case of the mother's physical or mental health or for young teens pregnant through rape or incest. The mental health provision essentially allowed abortion on demand, since the woman could simply assert that she would kill herself were she not permitted the abortion. Abortions had to be performed by qualified physicians in an accredited hospital and could only be performed up to 20 weeks. The bill also allowed the establishment of dedicated abortion hospitals.
One of the purported beneficiaries of the new law was 26-year-old Kathryn Strong. On January 21, 1972, she went to Civic Center Hospital in Oakland, California for a legal abortion that was to be performed by Dr. Harold Van Maren. I have not been able to determine the grounds for Kathryn's abortion. During the procedure, her uterus was perforated. According to her medical records, she suffered extensive hemorrhage and shock. She died the following day, leaving behind a three-year-old son. It's difficult to judge if Kathryn's death was due to malpractice, since perforation was a known complication which could happen even if the abortion were performed with care, but, of course, could also be caused by carelessness.
However, because of the DIC, Vanessa's blood couldn't clot, and she bled to death from the liver laceration. Since second-trimester evacuation abortions were still new at the time, Boyd and his staff didn't realize that there was a risk of DIC. To Boyd's credit, he reported Vanessa's death to the Centers for Disease Control and wrote a medical journal article warning other abortion practitioners that DIC could occur during second-trimester evacuation abortions.