Thursday, March 03, 2016

Typical Abortion Deaths, Different Times and Places

Each of the deaths we commemorate today was a fairly typical example of how abortion was practiced in different times and places in the United States during the 20th century.

Typical Chicago Abortion Death, Early 20th Century

On February 29, 1916, Dr. Nels Meling was summoned to the home of 43-year-old homemaker Augusta Bloom on North Kedzie Avenue in Chicago. The next day he sent her to Norwegian Deaconess Hospital. While there she made a deathbed declaration that she was suffering from the effects of an abortion perpetrated by Dr. James R. Struble at his office. On March 3, 1916, Augusta died from massive infection. Struble was indicted by a Grand Jury on March 21, but the case never went to trial. 

Two years earlier, Struble had been implicated in the abortion death of 24-year-old Frances Fergus, but that case had not gone to trial either. This was fairly typical for Chicago abortions of that era: a doctor or a midwife, often running very thinly-veiled abortion ads in newspapers, would send multiple women to the grave without losing either their license or their freedom.

Typical Pittsburgh Abortion Death, Early 20th Century

Nikola Wojnovich of Pittsburgh said that on Saturday, February 16, 1918, his 26-year-old wife, Mary Wojnovich, seemed unwell after dinner, very unstable on her feet. Nikola asked her what was wrong, and she said she didn't know, perhaps she had caught cold while washing the windows. She asked him to help her to bed. He then sent for Dr. Zabaranko, who examined her and prescribed some medication.

The next day Zabaranko returned and diagnosed her with inflammation of the uterus and instructed Nikola to put an ice pack on her abdomen. On Thursday, February 21, Mary's condition was worse, and Nikola summoned Zabaranko again. When he examined her, he called an ambulance and sent her to Pittsburgh's South Side Hospital, where Dr. S. A. Beddall admitted her for treatment for “incomplete abortion and pelvic peritonitis due to self inflicted abortion at home 2 weeks ago.”

After Mary's death, at about 2:00 on the morning of Saturday, March 3, Dr. Henry Klinzing jotted a note to the coroner on a prescription pad saying that Mary, a homemaker and Croatian immigrant, had made a deathbed statement to him on March 1, saying “she inserted a stick of wood into the uterus to bring on menstruation feeling she was pregnant. From this she developed a pelvic peritonitis and subsequently a septic pneumonia from which she died.”

Mary's abortion is in keeping with turn-of-the-20th-century Pittsburgh abortion deaths, which heavily inclined toward self-induced, in contrast to Chicago abortions of the same period, which were predominately perpetrated by doctors and midwives.

Typical Newly Liberalized New York Abortion Death

"Connie" was 31 years old when she took advantage of the liberalized law and underwent a safe and legal abortion in New York on March 3, 1972. She went into cardiac arrest during the abortion. Attempts to save her life were futile; she died on March 8, five days after her abortion. She left behind one child. 

The 1970 liberalization of abortion made New York an abortion mecca until the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling that abortionists could legally set up shop in any state of the union. In addition to "Connie," these are a few of the women I know of who had the dubious benefit of dying from the newfangled safe-and-legal kind of abortion in pre-Roe New York:

  • Carmen RodriguezJuly 19, 1970, salt solution intended to kill the fetus accidentally injected into her bloodstream
  • Barbara Riley, July 20, 1970, sickle-cell crisis triggered by abortion recommended by doctor due to her sickle cell disease
  • "Amanda" RoeSeptember 22, 1970, sent back to her home in Indiana with an untreated hole poked in her uterus
  • Maria OrtegaOctober 10, 1970, fetus shoved through her uterus into her pelvic cavity then left there
  • Margaret Smith, June 16 1971, hemorrhage from multiple lacerations during outpatient hysterotomy abortion
  • "Roxanne" RoeMay 13, 1972, given overdose of abortion sedatives
  • "Danielle" Roe, May 17, 1972, air in her bloodstream

With the proliferation of fly-by-night outpatient abortion in the state, New York City Chief Medical Examiner Milton Helpern expressed concern that ill-equipped and poorly-staffed freestanding legal abortion facilities were posing a danger to women. Certainly they were not reducing the real danger to women, merely the perceived risk. As you can see from the graph below, abortion deaths were falling dramatically before legalization. This steep fall had been in place for decades. To argue that legalization lowered abortion mortality simply isn't supported by the data. The women's deaths were just demoted from homicide, punishable by law, to mere medical mishaps not worth anybody's concern. What ended with legalization wasn't women dying from abortions; it was society caring if they died.

Typical National Abortion Federation Abortion Death

Abortion entrepreneur Edward C. Allred
Sixteen-year-old Patricia Chacon had no way of knowing that she would become the second of more than a dozen women for whom a safe, legal abortion at one of Edward "Fast Eddie" Allred's chain of abortion mills would be the last choice she would ever make. Patricia underwent a safe and legal second-trimester abortion at the hands of either Allred or Leslie Orleans at Allred's Avalon Hospital in Los Angeles on the morning of March 3, 1984. Patricia retained fetal tissues, so she was scheduled for a second procedure that afternoon to complete the abortion.

There are conflicting stories as to what happened next. Allred claimed that Patricia died of an embolism during the second surgery. (He pronounced her dead at 4:30 PM.) Patricia's parents claim that the child bled to death while left unattended. An autopsy found numerous catgut sutures in Patricia's vagina and hemorrhage in her uterus. Death was attributed to disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (a clotting disorder) due to abortion-induced amniotic fluid embolism (amniotic fluid in the bloodstream). Patricia's parents sued Allred and Orleans for their daughter's death.

Other women known to have died after abortion at Allred's facilities include 
Denise HolmesMary PenaJosefina GarciaLaniece DorseyJoyce OrtenzioTami SuematsuSusan LevyDeanna BellChristine MoraTa Tanisha WessonNakia JordenMaria LehoKimberly NeilMaria Rodriguez, and Chanelle Bryant.

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