Saturday, November 19, 2016

Nearly One and a Quarter Centuries of Needless Tragedy

Suicide in Missouri, 1984

Sandra Kaiser, who had turned 15 two days earlier, committed suicide on November 19, 1984, after an abortion at Reproductive Health Services in St. Louis, MO. In October, Sandra had gone to a Planned Parenthood with her 21-year-old half-sister, Karen Flynn. The pregnancy test was positive, and Sandra told Karen she wanted an abortion. Karen made an appointment and took Sandra to Reproductive Health Services (RHS) for a safe and legal abortion.

Karen later said that during the counseling session, Sandra did not seem ambivalent, and said that she thought she was too young to have a child. Sandra also lied, saying that her mother knew of the abortion plan, approved of it, and had provided the money to pay for it. Three days later, Karen brought Sandra back to RHS for the abortion.

It is important to note that Sandra had already led a very troubled life. At age 7 she witnessed the stabbing death of one of her half-brothers. At age 11 she was diagnosed with a conduct disorder. By age 12 her problems included drinking alcohol, running away from home, temper outbursts, skipping school, crying, and nightmares about her brother's death. She was hospitalized at least twice and had received outpatient therapy and medication. She was, in short, a high-risk abortion patient, likely to suffer severe psychological after-effects.

Sandra signed the consent form, and Karen signed in the space for parent/guardian. The two sisters also filled out the other paperwork for the abortion. They checked "No" in answer to the question, "Have you ever been hospitalized other than for childbirth." Karen later said that they checked "No" despite Sandra's psychiatric hospitalization because she believed the question only pertained to hospitalization for physical ailments.

After the abortion, Sandra holed up in her room a lot, crying. On November 19, Sandra's mother overheard her talking to her boyfriend on the phone. The boyfriend had supposedly gotten another girl pregnant. Sandra said that she was going to go jump off a bridge. Half an hour later, Sandra went to a bridge over Aresnal Street. There, a bystander saw her holding on to the fence, finally letting go and leaping off into the path of a car on the street below.

The driver of the car that hit her stopped and stood by Sandra, waving his arms to alert oncoming traffic to her presence in the road. The driver behind him stopped his car as well, and began flashing his headlights and sounding his horn to alert traffic. A woman driving an oncoming car saw the man waving his arms, and the car with lights flashing, and became confused and alarmed. She drove past them, running over Sandra.

Upon arriving at her destination, this driver told a friend of the strange event. The friend suggested that they return to the scene to find out what had happened. By the time they arrived, the police had arrived, Sandra was being loaded into an ambulance, and somebody had found Sandra's mother and brought her to the scene. The woman driver told the police what had happened, and no charges were brought against her.

Sandra died four hours later of multiple internal injuries.

Sandra's mother sued RHS for her daughter's death, charging that they had failed to contact the girl's mother in compliance with the law. An expert noted that at the time of Sandra's death, she had been depressed for several weeks, that the suicide was a direct consequence of this depression, and that the abortion was the "straw that broke the camel's back." The judge ruled that Sandra's mother and her witnesses failed to prove that the clinic had been negligent in exploring Sandra's history, and that Sandra had not been proved to have killed herself due to an uncontrollable impulse. To add insult to injury, the suicide had occurred during the time that the Missouri law governing consent of minors to abortion was enjoined by the Federal courts, so the law to protect Sandra and girls like her did not apply.

Two young women, Diane Boyd and Nichole Williams, died of complications of abortions performed on them by Robert Crist at RHS.

1935: If Not Ginsberg, then Who? 

On December 31, 1935, criminal abortion charges were dropped against Dr. Tobias Ginsberg, and his nurse, because of insufficient evidence. The two were suspects in the November 19, 1935 abortion death of 24-year-old Mrs. Edith Eschrich.

Chicago Deaths: 1924 and 1913

On November 19, 1924, 38-year-old homemaker Elizabeth Strazdas, a Lithuanian immigrant, died at Chicago's Mother Cabrini Hospital from complications of a criminal abortion performed that day. The person responsible for Elizabeth's death was never identified.

On November 19, 1913, 27-year-old homemaker Catherine Seabrooke died at St. Anthony's Hospital in Chicago from an abortion performed that day by an unknown perpetrator.

1862: One Family, One Season, Unrelenting Tragedy

James Anderson, an elderly New York sexton and undertaker, had already suffered much as autumn of 1862 passed. His eldest son, a soldier, had been killed in the line of duty in September. His wife had been so stricken with shock and grief at the loss of their son that she herself had died shortly thereafter. Then in October, his 20-year-old daughter, Clementina, disappeared.

She had left the house on Saturday, October 25, ostensibly to visit relatives in Newburgh. Her father had wanted her to stay close to home, and offered to let her have somebody come stay with her if she was lonely. But Clementina was adamant. She took her black valise and headed off to Newburgh.

But word came on Wednesday, October 29, that the expected visitor had never arrived. What had become of Clementina? James Anderson and his brother asked the young woman's suitor, 26-year-old Augustus L. "A.L." Simms, if he knew anything of Clemetina's whereabouts. All Simms would say was that perhaps she had gone to the country to visit friends.

This didn't set the frantic father's mind at ease. For three weeks, he unflaggingly searched for his missing daughter, asking Simms again and again for any clue as to where she might have gone. Simms insisted that he had no idea where Clementina was, but reassured James that she'd probably be home soon.

The evening of November 19, the doorbell rang at James Anderson's home. He answered to find Edward Donohue, a hackman, on the doorstep, accompanied by an unfamiliar woman. The hackman held what at first appeared to be a bundle of quilts in his arms. The strange visitors came into the house. But when Donohue lay the bundle down on the sofa, Anderson saw that it was actually Clementina.

Taken completely by surprise at the sight of his long-missing daughter, he cried out joyfully to his brother and the hired man that Clementina had come home.

Agnes Mann, who boarded with the Andersons, heard the commotion from the basement and came up to see what was going on. She found people gathered around Clementina, who lay apparently lifeless on the sofa. James Anderson left the room briefly, overcome with emotion. Agnes drew nearer and saw that Clementina was still breathing, but very slowly. In the moment her father was gone to compose himself, she breathed her last.

Fate had dealt James Anderson a third tragic blow.

An investigation found that Simms had gotten Clementina pregnant, given her abortifacient pills, and finally, after the family disruption caused by the deaths of Clemintina's brother and mother had passed, ensconced her at the home of Dr. Edward Browne, he performed an abortion. Simms insisted that all of this had been at Clementina's instigation, but statements by her friends indicate that Clementinia seemed to think that Simms was whisking her away to marry her. 

Clementina became dreadfully ill after the abortion. Her condition continued to deteriorate over the course of the weeks she was gone from home. Finally, on November 19, Browne told Simms to take Clementina away. Simms hired the hackman who delivered the dying Clementina to her father's door.

Browne was eventually convicted of third-degree manslaughter in Clementina's death.

No comments: