Tuesday, March 29, 2016

From Chicago to New York, Criminal and Legal

Criminal in Chicago

On March 29, 1912, 36-year-old homemaker Mary Abrams died from an abortion perpetrated by Mary D. Lunnemeyer that day. Lunnemeyer's profession is identified only as "abortion provider", so it's likely that, unlike the majority of abortion perpetrators in that time and place, she was a lay abortionist rather than a physician or a midwife. She was arrested March 29 and held to a Grand Jury, but the case never went to trial.

On March 29, 1924, 30-year-old Etta Marcus died at Chicago's Francis Willard Hospital (pictured) from complications of a criminal abortion performed that day. The coroner concluded that Dr. William J. Wick had performed the fatal abortion at his office. However, on April 10, Wick was acquitted for reasons I have been unable to determine. Abortions in Chicago in that era were typically perpetrated by either doctors or midwives.

From Safe and Legal to a Respirator in a Nursing Home

A high school yearbook photo of an Hispanic girl with hair in an '80s style, wearing dangling earrings and a dark sweater with a lighter, variegated pattern running both vertically and horizontally
Venus Ortiz
Venus Ortiz died in a nursing from lingering abortion complications at age 29 on December 16, 1998. The abortion had been performed five years earlier by Dr. Leiber at Eastern Women's Center in New York, NY and she had remained in a vegetative state, in need of a respirator, until her death. A suit filed by her survivors alleged that there was negligence in administering anesthesia to Venus, and failure to establish an airway. Brevital, fentanyl, and midazolam were administered in dosages and manners contrary to standards of practice, causing Venus to suffer a synergistic reaction. Eastern's staff failed to promptly diagnose and attend to cardio-pulmonary arrest. 

Two other patients, Dawn Ravenelle and Dawn Mack, also died of complications of abortions done at Eastern Women's Center.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Illegal in 1942, Safe and Legal in 1975 and 2014

Influential Doc Named on Deathbed, Acquitted in Court

On March 28, 1942, 19-year-old Cleo Moore died at New Rochelle Hospital in New York from peritonitis from an illegal abortion. Before her death she changed her story and said that Dr. Frank F. Marino had performed the fatal abortion. According to Cleo's roommate, Alice Petersen, Cleo met a man through her work, and discovered that she was pregnant in January. On March 5, Alice said, Cleo visited Marino to arrange an abortion, which he performed at his home office on March 9. By March 11, Cleo was ill and summoned Marino, who sent her to the hospital with instructions not to inform anyone that he had operated on her. Alice also said that Dr. Marino's wife told her to protect her husband, lest "you and Miss Moore...go to prison."

Marino testified that he had examined Cleo on March 5, refused the requested abortion, and did not hear from Cleo again until the 11th, when he was summoned to her home and sent her to the hospital without reporting the abortion. Marino, who had been a member of the County Board of Supervisors, the New Rochelle Board of Education, and the New Rochelle Zoning Board of Appeals, was also a golfing buddy of the prosecutor of the case. Marino was acquitted.


Chicago: One Victim of "The Abortion Profiteers"

On March 25, 1975, 18-year-old Sharon Floyd went to Associated Concern in Chicago for a safe and legal abortion. Three days later, she died of pelvic infection and blood poisoning. >On July 1, 1975, public health officials closed Associated Concern, which was one of the abortion mills featured in the Chicago Sun-Times "Abortion Profiteers" series.

2014: Dead Because of an Elevator

Twenty-two-year-old Lakisha Wilson went to Preterm Abortion Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on March 21, 2014. She was 19.4 weeks pregnant. After the abortion, she began bleeding heavily due to uterine atony (her uterus wasn't contracting and stopping her from bleeding from where the placenta had been attached). 

The procedure rooms at Preterm are on the third floor of the building. When emergency medical services arrived, the elevator was malfunctioning. They were delayed in getting the gurney to Lakisha due to this problem. When they entered the room, where Lakisha still lay on the abortion table with her legs in the stirrups, they found her abortionist, Dr. Lisa Perriera, trying to resuscitate her with a pediatric-sized Ambu-Bag. 

The medics were able to get Lakisha's heart going but were hampered in their further resuscitation efforts because the elevator was too small to properly accommodate the gurney; Lakisha had to be taken into the elevator in a seated position that did not provide adequate access to her airway. Several hours after the bleeding started, she was finally taken to Chase University Medical Center,where she was placed on life support and pronounced dead on March 28.



2014: Elevator and Ambu-Bag Both Too Small. Patient Dies

Abortion-rights groups have been fighting to halt laws that would treat abortion clinics like ambulatory surgical centers. The abortion lobby insists that regulations such as size of doorways and hallways and elevators are just nit-picky and have nothing to do with women's well-being. What they don't want you to know is why these size requirements are included in ambulatory surgery center regulations. If a patient is having a life-threatening emergency, EMS workers need to be able to get the patient onto a gurney and perform resuscitation efforts while moving the patient from the procedure room into the ambulance.

On this date in 2014, 22-year-old Lakisha Wilsondied because a clinic was not laid out to allow easy access by an ambulance gurney.

A smiling young Black woman, with bright jewelry and clothing, casually-coiffed hair, and a radiant smile
Lakisha Wilson
Operation Rescue obtained the autopsy report . Lakisha went to Preterm Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on March 21, 2014. She was 19.4 weeks pregnant. Further investigation by Operation Rescuereveals further details on the pathetic excuse for treatment Lakisha received at the clinic, as well as how the substandard conditions in the clinic contributed to Lakisha's death. After the safe, legal abortion, she began bleeding heavily because her uterus had become soft (atony). 

The procedure rooms at Preterm are on the third floor of the building. When emergency medical services arrived, the elevator was malfunctioning. They were delayed in getting the gurney to Lakisha due to this problem. When they entered the room, where Lakisha still lay on the abortion table with her legs in the stirrups, they found her abortionist, Dr. Lisa Perriera, trying to resuscitate her with a pediatric-sized Ambu-Bag. The IV for administering medications had been torn loose somehow by clinic staff. 

EMS began working to revive Lakisha, who had no pulse and was not breathing. The medics were able to get her heart going but were hampered in their further resuscitation efforts because the elevator was too small to properly accommodate the gurney; Lakisha had to be taken into the elevator in a seated position that did not provide adequate access to her airway. Several house later she was finally taken to Chase University Medical Center,where she was placed on life support and pronounced dead on March 28.

Here is video, with 911 audio, of an ambulance call two years before Lakisha's death. This patient, like Lakisha, was hemorrhaging due to uterine atony. In this patient's case, the elevator wasn't working at all. Fortunately, she survived.



Saturday, March 26, 2016

Sketchy Information from 1986

Gail Wright was 29 years old when she underwent a legal abortion. She was 20 weeks pregnant.
After her abortion, she developed sepsis.

She died of adult respiratory distress syndrome on March 26, 1986, leaving behind a husband.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Full Gamut of Abortion Deaths, 1848 - 2000

Self-Induced in Boston, 1848

In January of 1848, 20-year-old Ann Gallager of Boston approached a married friend, Catherine Beath, with the news that she was pregnant. Ann asked Catherine to go with her to Dr. John Stevens to arrange an abortion. "The doctor refused, saying that he was an old man and did not do such things." Ann offered him $50, Catherine said, but Stevens insisted that "he would not do it for all the world." Ann was angry, and went home to try to abort the baby herself. She tried pouring boiling water over tobacco leaves and breathing the steam. She tried drinking some rum in which she had soaked rusty nails. Finally, she tried a knitting needle, which Catherine took away from her.

Ann retorted to Catherine that she was going to do the abortion one way or another. She went to Catherine's house to get the knitting needle for another attempt, this time producing some bleeding. By this time, in February, Ann's clothes were getting tight. She tried vigorous exercise and pressing hard on her abdomen with her hands. In March, Ann went to Dr. Stebbins, asking for some abortifacient pills. She described her prior attempts at abortion, including the bleeding after the knitting needle attempt. "I told her if she continued to use the means thus far employed, she would kill herself."

As March wore on, Ann took ill. She gave a sworn statement that on March 15, she had gone to Dr. John Stevens for an abortion, which he had done with instruments. Two days later she expelled the dead baby, a boy. Ann's condition continued to deteriorate until her death on March 25. Stevens was arrested, but since the only witness against him was a prostitute who had a reputation as a liar, Stevens was acquitted. Since he had, by Ann and Catherine's word, repeatedly refused to perpetrate the abortion, my own belief is that she implicated Stevens as revenge for those refusals.

Abortifacient in Birmingham, Alabama, 1889

In 1889, Delia Mae Bell, age 14, lived with her mother, Mrs. McDermott, in Birmingham, Alabama and worked in her mother's dressmaking shop. When Delia took violently ill on a Sunday morning, the neighbors were suspicious. The first doctor called to the scene was L.G. Woodson. He arrived about 6:30 and found Delia in convulsions. He gave her a subcutaneous morphine injection then went to breakfast. When he returned, he found her once again convulsing, so he sent for Dr. W.C. Foster. He took note of the convulsions, and of a suspicious bottle. He called in yet another physician, Dr. W.E. Morris. "All the aids known to medical science were tried without avail, and about 3 o'clock in the afternoon it was decided to resort to an operation." Later, Morris said, "There were hurrying feet in the hallways, and then came a hush over the place. The girl was dead." This was Monday, March 25, 1889. The doctors notified the coroner and turned over a bottle to him that had contained an abortifacient traced to a man named George A. Foule of East Birmingham. Foule was a saloon keeper. He called his potion a treatment for "blood diseases and feminine troubles". 

A Midwife and a Possible Lay Abortionist, Chicago, Early 20th Century

At about 11 a.m. on March 25, 1909, 37-year-old homemaker Carrie Pearson died at Ravenswood Hospital in Chicago from septicemia caused by an abortion. On her deathbed, Carrie said that the abortion had been perpetrated by 39-year-old midwife Caroline Meyer of on March 18 at 447 Wells Street. Meyer was held by the coroner but the case resulted in a hung jury. Carrie's death followed the typical pattern of a Chicago abortion death of the era: An abortion performed by a midwife (or physician), followed by admission to a hospital and subsequent death, often after naming the perpetrator in a deathbed statement. During her murder trial in Carrie's death, Meyers was also under indictment for the abortion death of Nellie O'Neill.

Homemaker Celia M. Schultz, age 29, died in a Chicago home from septicemia caused by an abortion on March 25, 1910. A woman named Mary Rommell was indicted for felony murder by a grand jury. The source document does not indicate her profession, or that the case ever went to trial. My best guess based on the resources I have at hand is that Rommell was a professional lay abortionist.

Doctors? New York, 1916

On March 25, 1916, Angela Raia of Paynter Avenue, Astoria, died, evidently from the results of an abortion. Her husband Ignazio sued two doctors, Harlan E. Linehan and Dennis McAuliffe, for $400, asserting that their negligence had caused Angela's death. McAuliffe joined the military and went to France, moving him out of reach of the suit. Linehan joined a medical advisory board and was busy with his duties at the time the suit was filed. He offered to settle with Angela's husband, saying that he wanted "to relieve himself of the annoyance of the case." Angela's husband took the offer. I've been unable to determine if the doctors had perpetrated the abortion or had failed to provide adequate aftercare or both. If they had been the ones to do the abortion, that would have made it typical of criminal abortions, most of which were perpetrated by doctors.

A Doctor in Chicago, 1933


Newspaper headshot of a man, middle-aged or slightly older, with a receding hairline, goatee, and wire-rim glasses
Emil Gleitsman
In the spring of 1933, Edward Dettman's 21-year-old girlfriend, Mary Colbert, told him that she'd missed her period and wanted an abortion.  Edward took her to Dr. Emil Gleitsman. Afterward, Mary took ill and confided in her aunts. Mary died on March 25. Gleitsman had previously been was indicted for 22-year-old Lucille van Iderstine's abortion death in 1928 and for perpetrating a fatal abortion on Jeanette Reder in 1930.
A Doctor in Oklahoma, 1962

A balding, middle-aged white man wearing eyeglasses and a white shirt open at the collar
Dr. Henrie
On March 3, 1962, Dr. W.J. Bryan Henrie, an osteopath, performed an abortion on 33-year-old Jolene Griffith at his clinic in Grove, Oklahoma. Jolene developed an infection, and, according to her survivors, Griffith abandoned her and provided no care to treat the infection. On March 10, Jolene was admitted to a hospital in Tulsa. She died there on March 25, leaving behind a husband and three minor children. Henire was conviced, and served 25 months of a 4-year sentence. Upon his release, he went right back to doing abortions. Jolene's abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a doctorAbortion rights activists continue to revere Henrie, and to totally ignore the fate of Jolene Griffith. 
Safe and Legal in Chicago, 2000

A square logo, pale blue on the top with "naf" in lower-case italics in white, white on the bottom with 'National Abortion Federation" in all caps in light blue
At a National Abortion Federation Risk Management Seminar in the 1990s, Michael Burnhill of the Alan Guttmacher Institute scolded Lichtenberg for "playing Russian roulette" with patients' lives by performing risky abortions in an outpatient setting and treating serious complications on site in his procedure room rather than transporting them to a hospital. Evidently Lichtenberg chose not to listen to Burnhill's warning.
On March 25, 2000, 22-year-old Maria Rodriguez went to Steve Lichtenberg's Albany Medical Surgical Center, a National Abortion Federation member clinic in Chicago, for a late second trimester abortion. Lichtenberg estimated her pregnancy at 18 weeks and went ahead with the what a later expert consultant called "a seemingly uncomplicated (albeit short) procedure." At about 9:00 a.m., Maria was showing signs of shock from hemorrhage. The expert consultant pointed out that Lichtenberg had failed to notice that he had ruptured Maria's uterus. Lichtenburg flushed out her uterus with a dilute solution of Vasopressin, a hormone used sometimes to control bleeding. He also had pressure applied to her uterus. But, the consultant noted,"At no time were further attempts made to ascertain the cause of the bleeding or to explain the discrepancy between the marked decrease of hematocrit and the seemingly moderate blood loss."
A slightly rectangular logo, a medium blue square in the background, a forest green cursive F extending off the right and left edges, and a lavender square with "FPA" in all caps in white

Lichtenberg diagnosed DIC, a clotting disorder caused by triggers such as amniotic fluid in the blood stream. He started treating Maria with Fresh Frozen Plasma (FPP) at 9:34. Her hematocrit continued to fall, and she was showing abnormal EKG readings. Her heart was racing and she was continuing to bleed. She wasn't given a transfusion, or transported quickly to a hospital so that a transfusion could be administered there. Lichtenberg also didn't administer any additional medications to help control Maria's bleeding.

At around 10:15 a.m., Maria appeared to have been somewhat stabilized, but "no attempt was made to determine the cause of the bleeding with ultrasound evaluation" or to tie off the bleeding artery. By 10:30, her hematocrit had fallen to 15%, meaning she had less than half the red blood cells needed to carry oxygen to her brain. Finally, an hour and a half after Maria suffered her life-threatening injury, and an hour after Lichtenberg had diagnosed the dangerous clotting disorder, it occurred to somebody to call 911 and have Maria taken to a properly equipped hospital. By the time she arrived there, her hematocrit was 3.5%, less than 10% of what it should have been. Doctors at the hospital tried to save her, to no avail, she died that evening, leaving behind a four-year-old daughter.

Other women to die from abortions at FPA facilities include Denise HolmesPatricia ChaconMary PenaJosefina GarciaLanice DorseyJoyce OrtenzioTami SuematsuDeanna BellSusan LevyChristina MoraTa Tanisha WessonNakia JordenMaria LehoKimberly Neil, and Chanelle Bryant.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Typical Abortion Deaths a Century Ago

Typical Late 19th Century Abortion

On March 24, 1870, Catherine "Kate" Shields died in Jersey City from an abortion perpetrated by Dr. Charles Cobel. "The infamous doctor was arrested, as was also one Patrick Waterson, charged with having outraged the person of the unfortunate girl." The coroner's jury also reprimanded Mrs. Downes, who kept a Jersey City boardinghouse, for failing to properly look after Kate.

During the coroner's inquest, a letter from Cobel to Waterson was produced, in which he demanded $25 for the abortion, threatening to sue if he did not get his fee. Waterson testified that his only knowledge of Kate was that there had been a servant by that name working in the boardinghouse. However, on her deathbed Kate named him as the only man she had ever been with.

Cobel had already been held responsible for the 1856 death of Catharine DeBreuxal, the 1858 death of. Amelia Weber, the 1865 death of Emma Wolfer. He was later implicated in the 1875 death of Antoinette Fennor.


Two Typical Early 20th Century Chicago Abortions

On March 24, 1905, 28-year-old Ida Alice Bloom, a Swedish immigrant working as a domestic servant, died suddenly in Chicago from septic peritonitis caused by an apparent criminal abortion perpetrated on or about March 15. Dr. Julius N. Goltz as arrested as a principal, and James McDonald as an accessory. Both men were held without bail by a coroner's jury. Alice's abortion was typical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

On March 24, 1915, 31-year-old Frances Kulczyk died at her Chicago home from an abortion performed by an unknown perpetrator. Most Chicago abortions of that era were perpetrated by either doctors or midwives.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

From Criminal in Chi-Town to Safe-n-Legal in New York

Criminal in Chicago -- Three Typical Deaths

On March 23, 1905, Mrs. Ida Pomering, a 30-year-old German immigrant, died in Chicago from an abortion performed earlier that day.Apollonia Heinle was held by the coroner's jury for Ida's death. Heinle was identified in a death record as a doctor, but is elsewhere identified as a midwife. This does not rule out her being a doctor, since female obstetricians were, at that time, typically called midwives. Heinle suffered no long-term ill effects from Ida's death. She was still a practicing midwife-abortionist in 1909, when the Illinois State's Attorney declared "war on midwives" as an approach to stamping out abortion in the state. Doctors, however, were also quite commonly identified as the guilty parties after abortion deaths in Chicago in that era.

On March 16, 24-year-old Dora Swan of Chicago underwent an abortion at the hands of Dr. Louise Achtenberg. Achtenberg came to the home several times to care for Dora, but her condition was not improving. Her family called the family physician, Dr. C. S. Friend. He had her admitted to Englewood Union Hospital in Chicago to be treated. Dora died from post-abortion infection on March 23. Achtenberg, a doctor identified as a midwife due to her obstetric work, went on to be implicated in the 1909 abortion deaths of Stella Kelly and Florence Wright. She was also implicated in the 1921 abortion death of Violet McCormick. Later, in 1924, it was Dr. Louise Achtenberg who was held responsible for the death of Madelyn Anderson. In spite of all of these deaths, I can find no record that Achtenberg was ever incarcerated.

On March 23, 1917, 19-year-old Mary Conners died at Chicago's County Hospital, refusing to name the abortionist who had fatally injured her that day. Abortions in Chicago at that time were typically perpetrated by physicians or midwives.

Safe and Legal in New York

Lynn McNair, age 24, was 23 weeks pregnant when she went to Jewish Memorial Hospital in New York for an abortion in March of 1979. Her doctor, Edward Rubin, chose the saline abortion method, in which amniotic fluid is removed with a large syringe and then replaced with a sterile salt solution strong enough to be toxic. Because of risks to the mother, Japan, Sweden, and the Soviet Union all banned the saline abortion method before abortion was even legalized in the United States.

The first injection of saline failed to kill the fetus, so Rubin injected a second dose of saline. Lynn went into convulsions and slipped into a coma. Amniotic fluid, tainted with the strong salt solution, got into her blood stream and damaged her lungs. She died on March 23, leaving two children motherless.

Rubin continued to perform abortions, performing a fatal abortion on 28-year-old Dawn Mendoza at Women's Medical Pavilion in Dobbs Ferry, NY in 1988. Dawn also died from getting abortion material in her lungs, though in her case the abortion was done by dismembering the 22-week fetus, allowing both amniotic fluid and bits of the placenta to travel to the mother's lungs.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Criminal in Chicago, Safe and Legal in Atlanta

Early 20th Century Chicago

On March 21, 1911, 33-year-old homemaker Katherine "Kate" Kammer died of septic peritonitis at German Hospital in Chicago from an abortion perpetrated by a "midwife" around 5 days earlier. For reasons not given in the source document, there was never any prosecution for Kate's death.

On March 21, 1916, 30-year-old Mrs. Anna Krauz died at her home on Union Avenue in Chicago from infection caused by a perforated uterus. An abortion had been perpetrated by midwife Anna Vidicas, who was held by the Coroner but acquitted on trial.

On March 21, 1927, 25-year-old Nancy Dawson, an immigrant from England, died on-site from a criminal abortion performed that day. Dr. J.F. Peck and midwife Christine Sedwig were indicted for felony murder on April 1. The fact that both a doctor and a midwife were involved suggests that the abortion, as was common in Chicago in that era, was perpetrated by a midwife who called in a physician when her patient became ill.

Safe and Legal in the Early 21st Century

On March 21, 2008, 23 year old Sherika Mayo went to Summit Medical Associates in Atlanta, Georgia for the elective abortion of her 25 week unborn child. Sherika had sickle cell trait along with low levels of hemoglobin in her blood -- only 7.3 gms when a normal range for an adult woman is between 12 and 16. Abortionist Tyrone Maloy proceeded with the abortion anyway. While in the recovery room, Sherika went into cardiac arrest and was transferred to Atlanta Medical Center while EMS workers continued CPR. Emergency surgery was performed to remove Sherika's damaged uterus and repair an injured bowel. After surgery, Sherika showed symptoms of DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulopathy, a life-threatening clotting disorder sometimes caused by trauma or infection). She was treated with blood products but died in the I.C.U. The Georgia State Medical Board reviewed the case and determined that abortionist Tyrone Malloy, “failed to conform to minimal standards of acceptable and prevailing medical practice.”

Sunday, March 20, 2016

An Atypical and Two Typical Criminal Abortions

The first death we memorialize today was highly unusual in that it was an amateur abortion.

Anna Gosch's boyfriend, Mr. Edwards, admitted that they'd had a sexual relationship, and that she had called him to tell him that her period was late. He admitted that he went to the town of Kearney, and got a hotel room with the intent of perpetrating an abortion. Edwards wouldn't say what happened in the hotel room. He did say that the next day he took her to her home, and using a speculum he tried to insert a catheter into her uterus, which at the time was a method often used by doctors to cause an abortion. Edwards, however, couldn't get the catheter inserted. He said that Anna went upstairs and returned with a catheter with a wire in it, which would stiffen it for insertion. He said that the wire did its job in allowing him to get the catheter inserted. He then bent the wire and threw it away. A witness in the later trial, however, said that Edwards denied having done the abortion himself. He said that Anna had gone upstairs, then come down and told him that she thought "she had done it." 

Anna's abortion was unusual in that it was performed by an amateur, rather than by a doctor,as was the case with perhaps 90% of criminal abortions.

A physician, Dr. Cameron, was called on Thursday, March 15, to care for Anna. He saw her twice a day until the Monday before her death. Dr. Cameron testified,"I asked her what had been done to make her sick, and she said there had been a man had passed an instrument into her with a wire in it, rubber with a wire in it. I asked her when that had been done, and she said Monday; she thought it was Monday night." When asked about who the man was, "She said he was a man who traveled for rubber goods or instruments of some kind, said he was a traveling man."

Anna Gosch died on Tuesday, March 20, 1906, at 6:10 PM. Edwards was convicted of homicide. Anna's death is similar to the death of "Daisy" Roe, a systems analyst who died in 1990 after allowing her boyfriend to attempt to perform an abortion on her with a piece of aquarium tubing. Unlike Anna's boyfriend, however, Daisy's boyfriend was not prosecuted for her death.

The other two abortions were typical Chicago abortions, perpetrated by physicians.

On March 20, 1916, 19-year-old housemaid Bertha Carlson died at South Park Hospital in Chicago from septic infection as a result of a criminal abortion. On her deathbed, Bertha identified Dr. A. F. Butler as her abortionist. At the time of Bertha's death he was suffering from some sort of paralysis that kept him from testifying at an investigation into her death.

On March 20, 1926, 19-year-old Alice Annalora died at the County Hospital in Chicago from complications of an abortion performed that day. Dr. Wilford Vine was booked for Alice's death, as was her husband, Joseph Annalora. Vine was indicted for felony murder. Ultimately, the coroner was unable to determine the legal status of the abortion that killed Alice, so Dr. Vine and Mr. Annalora were released. Alice's abortion was typical of criminal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dismally Fruitful Research

A 1930s yearbook photo of a young woman with a cap of dark wavy hair
Rena Armstrong
Using a new trick I learned by watching "Long Lost Family," I found out the name of the girl I'd dubbed "Eudora." She had died on February 28, 1930 after an abortion by Dr. Charles C. Keester in Wichita, Kansas. Her name was Rena Armstrong.

I went looking for additional information using Rena's name on a newspaper database and learned that she was far from the only abortion death attributed to Keester. The others were:

Keester had managed to avoid prosecution for one of those deaths because the woman had named him as her abortionist upon admission to the hospital rather than when clearly on her deathbed. I don't have as much information about the other deaths. 

I had wanted for so long to believe that quack abortionists had been easy to catch and imprison in the pre-legalization days. Clearly, when legal protection is again extended to the youngest among us we will need to have mechanisms for identifying and successfully prosecuting abortionists.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Over 100 Years of Fatal Abortions

1875: Abortionist Seen as Villain

News coverage of the coroner's inquest into the March 7, 1875 death of 20-year-old Antoinette Fennor (Click on her name to learn more.) gives us an interesting glimpse into how abortion was practiced, investigated, and prosecuted in Brooklyn in the late 19th century, and how the public responded to abortion deaths. They certainly didn't take the bored, "You pays your money and you takes your chances" attitude I see people taking toward modern abortion deaths.  The verdict was that Antoinette died of peritonitis March 7, 1875, from an abortion performed about February 26 by Mrs. Maxwell, whose first name I have yet to determine. During the trial, which took place in a packed courtroom, unlike the empty courtroom for the Kermit Gosnell trial, spectators glared at -- practically hissed at -- the defendant. 


1908: Elderly Midwife-Abortionist Sentenced to Joilet

On March 7, 1908, unmarried seamstress Nellie Shuff, age 26, of New Berlin, Illinois, died at Wesley Hospital in Chicago. Nellie had lived as a boarder in the home of widow Martha Scott. The coroner's jury determined that she died from complications of an abortion that had been perpetrated at a home on Forest Avenue. Seventy-one-year-old midwife Johanna White was arrested, tried, and sentenced to one to ten years at Joliet for the death. White was so old and feeble that she had to be carried in and out of the courtroom, and was not expected to survive the length of her sentence. Nellie's fatal abortion was typical of Chicago abortions of the time, most of which were perpetrated by doctors or midwives.


1913: Tangential Murder Diverts Media Attention

The March 7, 1913 death of 16-year-old Edna Frederickson was tangled up in a tale of murder and intrigue. Edna was employed at a Chicago candy shop for $2 per week, and turned her wages over to her mother. Wanting to have some money for herself, and unhappy at home, Edna turned to a co-worker at the candy company, a married woman who went by the names of Lillie Dearborn and Kitty Young, who helped to arrange the abortion that took Edna's life. However, a tangentially-involved murder tended up gaining all the media attention.


1919: Doctor Has Woman's Body Dumped in Ravine

Inez Reed, age 28, died in San Mateo, California on March 7, 1919 after an abortion perpetrated by Dr. Eprhaim Northcott, a relative of the notorious serial murderer Gordon Northcott. I've recently found so much additional information on Inez's death that I have to completely rewrite her story.


1975: Deliberately Doing Incomplete Abortions

On March 4, 1975, Robert Julius Sherman performed a safe and legal abortion on 16-year-old Rita McDowell, who was in the second trimester of her pregnancy. Rather than admit her to the hospital for the then-standard saline abortion, Sherman performed a vacuum aspiration abortion usually used for first trimester abortions. When Rita was discharged, her mother was informed that she would probably expel the fetus that night. As they left the office, Rita told her mother, "Oh, Mama, I feel like I had one hundred needles in me."

Rita did not expel the fetus. Instead, she developed a fever. Her mother called Sherman's facility on March 5 to seek care for her daughter. She said that Sherman would not speak to her, and that the receptionist told her to bring Rita in two days later. In the early morning hours of March 7, Rita awoke screaming, then collapsed in her mother's arms. Doctors at the hospital where Rita was taken removed the macerated fetus, but she died from massive infection just after midnight on March 8.

An investigation into Rita's death revealed evidence that Sherman deliberately performed incomplete abortions so that he could charge more for follow-up care. Sherman was charged with murder in Rita's death, and prosecutors presented witnesses and evidence that Sherman re-used disposable medical equipment, failed to perform tests to verify pregnancy, failed to do pathology examinations of abortion tissues, allowed a nurse's aide to perform surgery, and falsified medical records.

Sherman plea-bargained, getting the murder charge dropped in exchange for a guilty plea on the perjury charges. The prosecutor defended the plea bargain on the grounds that the felony convictions would block Sherman from ever practicing medicine again. Sherman served two years in a federal prison, then set up a legal abortion practice in Boston.


1978: Astonishing Fallout for Fatal Abortion

Gloria Small, a 43-year-old mother of six, went to Ronald Tauber for a safe ane legal abortion. Despite Gloria's obesity, asthma, chronic lung disease, and family history of high blood pressure, Tauber elected to perform the 15-week abortion at his Orlando Birthing Center on March 7, 1978.

Gloria's uterus was punctured in the abortion. Tauber packed Gloria's uterus with medical gauze, which appeared to have controlled the bleeding. However, the next day he removed the packing and the hemorrhage resumed. She was not transferred to a hospital until 30 hours after she had been injured, and died despite an emergency hysterectomy. The medical examiner said that Gloria's medical history should have precluded performing an abortion in an outpatient setting. The medical board faulted him with failing to transfer to a hospital as soon as he'd had the bleeding stabilized with packing, and with trying to remove the packing in a setting where there was no blood available for a transfusion. A court-appointed panel found Tauber negligent in Gloria's death.

The repercussions for the 31-year-old Tauber were astonishing, given the legality of Gloria's abortion. He was dismissed from the staff of two hospitals, had his medical license suspended, and was charged with manslaughter. However, I have found no record that the case ever went to trial.