Beulah Pickerill, a Texas native, was 21 years old and living with her parents in the Louisville, Kentucky area. She worked there as a bookkeeper, but had other plans for her life. Beulah and her friend Floy L. Butler had ambitions for the stage, and on July 29, 1922 they left Louisville for Chicago. The presumption at home was that the two young women planned to develop careers as vaudeville performers, though the story Beulah had told her family was that she was going to visit friends.
An unidentified man, described as "wealthy and prominent," had arranged the journey. Whether he spirited the young woman to Chicago purely for the abortion or in order to support her dreams is unclear.
Those dreams died along with Beulah at Chicago's Mid West Hospital on August 13. After authorities determined that Beulah had died from complications of an abortion, two physicians, Vincent Filletti and Michael Galgano, were held by the coroner and indicted for felony murder. In her deathbed statement, Beulah had identified Filletti as the abortionist.
Upon arrival in Chicago, Beulah and Floy consulted with a physician on Chicago's Northside, but he refused to do the abortion himself, instead referring her to Filletti and Galgano. The friends went to Fillette's office on August 7 to make the arrangements and negotiate the price of $200. Beulah wired to Lousiville, presumably to the "wealthy and prominent" man, for the money. The abortion was perpetrated on August 9.
Floy, along with Patrick J. Owens, the manager of Chicago's Clarendon Hotel, were held as accessories. A physician identified only as Dr. Peterson was held as a witness.
A Pentacostal Preacher, Chicago, 1954
Nathelyn Collins, age 17, died at Cook County Hospital on August 13, 1954 from complications of an abortion perpetrated by Rev. Clarence Loveaux in a back room of his storefront church, Pentecostal Righteous Temple of God.
Loveaux, age 59, insisted that he had only been "giving treatment" to Nathelyn, not performing an abortion. However, he had two small rooms at the back of the church that were fully equipped with all the medical tools necessary for an abortion practice. He was arrested when another 17-year-old white girl identified him as the man who had perpetrated an abortion on her.
Police, who had staked out the church for two weeks prior to the raid, said that Loveaux charged between $5 and $100 for abortions.
Safe and Legal in Los Angeles, 1986
Donna Heim, a 20-year-old nursery school teacher, went to Her Medical Clinic on August 12, 1986, accompanied by her sister. Donna told staff that she had asthma, and she noted this on her forms when she filled them out. Despite this pre-existing condition, a nurse anesthetist administered general anesthesia for her safe and legal abortion. Donna started to have difficulty breathing, but Mahlon Cannon continued with the procedure for five more minutes before helping the nurse anesthetist to try to restore Donna's breathing.
Donna's sister, who was in the waiting room, became alarmed at the intense staff activity she noticed, and questioned a staffer about her sister. She was reassured that Donna was fine. The sister saw an ambulance pull up to the building and stepped outside, where she observed her sister being transferred into the emergency vehicle. Donna's sister followed the ambulance to a nearby hospital, which summoned the comatose young woman's parents.
Donna died the next day without regaining consciousness. An investigation was sparked, and an administrative law judge ruled that Cannon was negligent in continuing with the abortion despite the patient's respiratory distress. The judge also found that Cannon often failed to do medical exams, take medical histories, or administer standard tests prior to abortions.
Donna's father, Richard Heim, told the Sacramento Bee, "I honestly thought that within a month or two the man would be in prison for manslaugher. When you go to the cemetery to visit your daughter, there's no way you can explain that, and this guy's just kicking back and making more money."
Donna's mother, Barbara Heim, told the Daily News of Los Angeles County, "I thought they'd close the door so no one else would die." But a month after Donna's fatal abortion Liliana Cortez, another woman with asthma, also died after an abortion at Her Medical Clinic. Michelle Thames would die at Her Medical Clinic in 1987 after being improperly resuscitated.
Maternal and Fetal Indications, Georgia, 1988
Allegra Ann Roseberry of Snellville, Georgia, age 41, had been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. She was admitted to Emory Hospital for assessment and surgery in anticipation of admission to an experimental cancer treatment program. There, a sonogram during surgery revealed a 23-week pregnancy, much to everyone's surprise since Allegra had undergone fertility drug treatment in order to conceive her son Matthew 20 years earlier.
Her liver specialist, family doctor, and gynecologist all failed to detect her pregnancy despite amenorrhea, breast tenderness, distended abdomen, and nausea because these symptoms were attributed to the cancer and other ailments. Allegra's doctors offered abortion as her only alternative, saying that the fetus was "doomed" due to Allegra's ailments, that the pregnancy would render her ineligible for the experimental treatment, and that the pregnancy was damaging her fragile health and would greatly hasten her death. No one arranged for a consult with a perinatologist or obstetrician. The options of continuing the pregnancy and/or premature delivery of the infant were not offered or discussed.
Allegra was transferred to Emory's Crawford Long Hospital for the abortion. Young W. Ahn initiated the abortion by prostaglandin suppository on August 8, 1988. On August 9, Allegra expelled the dead baby, whom she and her husband, Gary, had named Amy Ann. Allegra developed sepsis from the abortion, and died on August 13. An autopsy revealed that Amy had been normal.
The liver specialist contended that Allegra would have aborted Amy even if she had known the child was healthy in order to be eligible for the experimental program.The experimental program, however, did not actually exclude pregnant women. Allegra's gynecologist claimed that the reason for the abortion was damage to the fetus due to radiation therapy and also mentioned chemotherapy, neither of which Allegra had undergone.
All defendants held that Allegra could not have survived long enough to deliver Amy alive anyway. However, her prognosis if untreated for the cancer was 3 to 6 months to live. That would have put Amy's gestational age at 35 weeks at the earliest her mother was expected to die -- far past the point of viability -- and at 47 weeks had her mother survived 6 months -- nearly two months past the end of a term pregnancy.
In addition, it seems bizarre to subject a woman, as one of the last acts of her life, to endure a grueling late-term abortion rather than delay merely a single week at most before inducing labor to deliver a live infant with a good chance of survival.
The jury rendered a verdict against the liver specialist for the wrongful death of baby Amy, but returned no verdict for the wrongful death of Allegra due to their assumption that the cancer would have killed her soon anyway. Evidently they did not consider the time she could have spent being a mother to her baby daughter to be of any value.
Allegra's was not the only tragic death caused by doctors who recommended (or excused) abortion as a life-saving or health-preserving option for the mother:
- Anjelica Duarte sought an abortion on the advice of her physician, and ended up dying under the care of a quack.
- Barbara Hoppert died after an abortion recommended due to a congenital heart problem.
- Christin Gilbert died after an abortion George Tiller holds was justified on grounds of maternal health.
- Erika Peterson died in 1961 when her doctors obtained her husband's permission to perform a "therapeutic" abortion.
- "Molly" Roe died in 1975 when her doctors made the dubious decision to perform a saline abortion to improve her chances of surviving a lupus crisis.