Saturday, June 18, 2016

From Self-Induced in 1910 to Safe and Legal in 1973

Early 20th Century Chicago: Self-Induced and Two Mystery Abortions

"Clara," identified as "Miss F." in the source document, was 21 years old when she used a catheter to perform a self-induced abortion in mid-May of 1910. Five days later, Clara began suffering chills, fever, and abdominal pain. She passed the fetus the nest day but did not pass the placenta. Her condition deteriorated, so on June 12, 1910 she went to Cook County Hospital. Her admission notes indicate, "Very weak and sick. Face drawn and anxious. Abdomen distended and tender. Muscles rigid." The following day, Clara's temperature began to fall below normal and her pulse became more rapid. She died on June 18 from streptococcal peritonitis.

On June 18, 1914, 39-year-old Bridget Murphy died at Post Graduate Hospital in Chicago from an abortion performed that day by an unknown perpetrator.

The Coroner was never able to identify the abortionist responsible for the death of 19-year-old Julia Suchora June 18, 1917, at her Chicago home. Given the plethora of physicians and midwives running abortion practices in Chicago, it is likely that she availed herself of one of them.

Safe and Legal in New York, 1972

"Sara" Roe is one of the women Life Dynamics notes on their "Blackmun Wall" of women killed by legalized abortionSara took advantage of New York state's legalization of abortion, and underwent a second trimester abortion in New York City in May of 1972. She was 18 weeks pregnant. She had problems with retained tissue, so three weeks after the abortion she had a D&C to remove the tissue. Sara had developed infection from the retained tissue, and on June 18, 1972, the infection took her life. She left one child motherless.

"Back Alley Butcher" in South Dakota, 1973

Dr. Benjamin Munson had been practicing criminal abortion in Rapid City, SD as early as 1967. In 1969, he was convicted of performing an abortion on a 19-year-old patient. Munson won an appeal in circuit court. When the state appealed, the South Dakota Supreme Court upheld the conviction. Munson was in the process of appealing this decision when Roe vs. Wadewas handed down, making the case moot. Munson was free to practice abortion at-will.

Into this situation walked 28-year-old Linda Padfield. On June 15, 1973, Linda had traveled about five hours from Groton, SD with her three small children and a friend. Her mother, Audrey Padfield, had thought that Linda was making the trip to visit friends. Munson, then 61 years of age, performed the abortion that evening, and then Linda went to a motel for the night. The next day she, her children, and her friend did some sightseeing and then headed home to Groton. They arrived on the 17th, and Linda was already sick with nausea and high fever. She told her mother about the abortion, and her mother took her to St. Luke's Hospital in Aberdeen for emergency surgery, but the infection had progressed too far and Linda died on June 18.

One of the doctors who treated Linda at the hospital, Dr. James Hovland, said that Linda had been conscious when she first arrived but that she deteriorated rapidly. She seemed to be going into kidney failure, and didn't even bleed from the incision made for exploratory surgery. When asked if an immediate hysterectomy would have saved her, Hovland expressed his doubts, given how gravely ill Linda was from the results of the infection raging through her entire body.

A pathologist found the remains of a five-month fetus in Linda's uterus, missing a leg, arm, part of its skull and part of its torso. The 240 grams of retained fetus caused the massive infection that had killed Linda.

Munson sued to enjoin prosecution, but the case went to court nevertheless. The prosecution focused on the fact that infection will inevitably result from that much retained tissue. The Attorney General commented, "You take a three-inch leg off something, you have to know that there's more in there than just the leg." The defense, however, argued that infection is an accepted risk of abortion, and that the state couldn't prove that Munson meant to harm Linda. The only standard of care, the defense said, was a local standard of care. What abortion doctors did in other areas, the defese argued, was irrelevant. Since Munson was the only dedicated abortionist in the state, whatever he did, therefore, was by definition the community standard of care.The judge bought it, ordered the jury to acquit. Munson later became a member of the National Abortion Federation (NAF).

In In 1985, Munson sent a teenage patient, Yvonne Mesteth, home with retained tissue. She, like Linda Padfield, died of infection. Again Munson was prosecuted for manslaughter, and again he beat the rap. Munson is the third former criminal abortionist I've learned of who had a clean record -- no patient deaths -- as a criminal abortionist, only to go on to kill two patients in his legal practice. The others are Milan Vuitch(Georgianna English and Wilma Harris) and Jesse Ketchum (Margaret Smith and Carole Schaner).

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