Tuesday, August 16, 2016

From Boston in 1858 to Pittsburgh in 1989

Ugly Rumors in Boston, 1858

On Monday, August 16, 1858, Dr. David R. Brown went to an undertaker asking for the removal from is home of a body he said was that of his 37-year-old servant, Emily A. Thompson. He said that she had died from cholera. Somebody found this fishy to the District Attorney. The body was exhumed and examined. The dead woman didn't look any older than age 20. An autopsy also showed that the death had not been due do cholera but rather due to abortion complications.

“She was of good form, tall and slim, and appeared to be unused to labor. When the body was disinterred a gold ring was found on one finger and an ear-ring in one ear. She has light-brown hair and blue or hazel eyes, and is said to have been a very beautiful and intelligent girl.”

Her name was Susan Webster.

Rumors also swarmed that she had been sent to Boston the abortion by a "near relative" who had gotten her pregnant. The "near relative" turned out to be her uncle, Philip Ulmer.

Brown was arrested and charged with manslaughter on August 24, 1858, and Ulmer was charged as an accessory. A trial in March resulted in a hung jury, with 11 voting for conviction and one for acquittal after 44 hours of deliberation. In a subsequent trial in April, 1859, Brown was convicted and faced a sentence of seven to 21 years.

Chicago, 1899

On August 16, 1899, 35-year-old Antonie Vacicek, a married woman, died in her Chicago home from complications of an illegal abortion performed there that day. Mary Koupal was arrested and held by Coroner's Jury in the death, but was discharged in the September term. Koupal's profession is not listed.

Safe and Legal in California, 1969

Cheryl Vosseler was 17 years old when she was admitted to Fresno General Hospital on July 31, 1969, to undergo a legal abortion. California allowed abortions to be performed in hospitals at that time. After she was discharged, Cheryl suffered from complications, and was readmitted two weeks later. Surgery was performed August 14, 1969, to try to save her life. Cheryl's condition continued to deteriorate. She finally died August 16, 1969.

One of Three Deaths at a Chicago Clinic, 1974

Dorothy Brown, age 37, underwent a safe and legal abortion at Friendship Medical Clinic in Chicago on August 16, 1974. Within hours, she was dead at a nearby hospital. Her death was attributed to "shock related to hemorrhagic necrosis of uterus." That means that blood from her uterus was unable to get back into her circulatory system, overwhelming the tissues and causing them to die. Julia Rogers and Evelyn Dudley also died after abortions at Friendship Medical Center.

An Unwanted, Contraindicated, Obsolete Abortion, Pittsburgh, 1989

A snapshot of a middle-aged woman and teenage girl of Italian descent, smiling and embracing
Deborah and Marla, shortly before the abortion
Deborah Cardamone has raised her grandson since he was one year old. She had to. The child's mother, Deborah's daughter Marla Anne, died at the age of 18. Pregnant after a date rape, Marla had planned to put her baby up for adoption, since she already had a toddler to take care of, but a medical-social worker at Magee Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh strongly urged Marla to have an abortion.

The social worker insisted that Marla had harmed her unborn baby because of Tegretal and Elavil she'd been taking for depression. No family would adopt a disabled baby, Marla was told. The social worker pointed out to Marla how difficult it would be to continue to assist in caring for her quadriplegic father if she also had to care for a disabled child that nobody would adopt. Statistics gave a 92% chance that the baby was fine, but Marla had a sonogram to be sure. After the sonogram, the social worker kept pressuring Marla. Finally, she gave in. She was admitted to the hospital for the abortion August 15, 1989.

Although the urea induction technique -- which involved injecting a chemical into the uterus -- was contraindicated due to Marla's medical history, Michael W. Weinberger injected urea into his patient's uterus anyway. Either an error during this injection or some other mishap caused the tissue of Marla's uterus to start dying. The laminaria used to dilate Marla's cervix had also been inserted by Weinberger in a manner resulting in massive infection. Her kidneys shut down.

Marla became obviously ill during the night, with nausea, vomiting, urinary incontinence, and dried blood on her teeth. Her pulse and temperature were severely elevated. At 6:30 AM the charge nurse contacted a the first of several doctors to treat Marla, but no were cultures taken.

By 7 AM Marla was "increasingly disoriented and speaking inappropriately." By 7:15, her blood pressure had fallen to 80/40, her pulse had shot up to 144, and she was "unresponsive, grunting loudly, and having seizures." At 10 AM, intravenous antibiotics were administered, but of course they would do nothing to address the kidney failure or rotting tissue. Marla was dead from septicemia at 12:15 PM.

The suit filed by Marla's family noted failure to notify them of her deteriorating condition. They never got to come and see her one last time before she died. Marla's parents adopted her orphaned son. To add further insult to injury, the coroner's office lost the body of Marla's baby, Christopher Michael. (To see the coroner's photos of Marla and her baby, click here.)

Marla's family faulted the doctor and hospital with performance of an abortion that they should have known would only make Marla's existing depression worse, failure to remove the dead fetus, administering an overdose of Pitocin, and failure to consult qualified doctors.

Marla's mother adds bitterly:

I had to file a lawsuit to get any answers. Marla had died of septicemia--a massive infection from the abortion. I also learned that the social worker had never seen Marla's sonogram or discussed the results with her. Marla never saw the words on the sonogram report that would have changed everything: No abnormalities detected. My daughter was pressured to have an abortion, and there had been no reason for it, no reason at all.

I've often wondered why pro-choice women's groups have never expressed any sympathy or concern over Marla's death. Why aren't they demanding justice? Why aren't they concerned that Marla was lied to about the condition of her baby and wasn't shown the sonogram results? Why aren't they concerned that proper treatment was delayed because Marla was misdiagnosed by a resident who was only two months out of medical school? Why are they so quiet?

I believe it's because pro-choice groups don't want women to read or hear about abortion injuries and deaths. Bad publicity hurts their cause. That's why they prefer that Marla and her baby remain hidden statistics.

"The last two weeks of her life, all she did was cry," Deborah Cardamone told me.

Deborah still cries.

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