A Safe and Legal Anesthesia Mishap
On January 22, 2001, 19-year-old Melissa Heim went to Access Health Center
in Downers Grove, Illinois.She was given "twilight anesthesia" with a
drug cocktail including Versed, Fentanyl, and Brevital for a safe, legal abortion, which started at about 11:45 a.m. and was finished at about noon.
After the abortion, she was moved to the recovery area, where she went
into cardio-respiratory arrest about half an hour later. An ambulance
was summoned, and Melissa was resuscitated by the paramedics, but due to
the brain injury she had suffered, she died on January 26.
Her survivors filed suit against Access, doctors
Victor Espinosa and Alfonso Del Granado, and nurse Pat Hurt, holding
that they had failed to monitor Melissa properly in recovery and failed to
resuscitate her quickly enough to save her life.
One of Two Dead Patients in Louisiana
Ingar Weber, age 28, died January 26, 1990, in a Louisiana
hospital. She had been treated for acute kidney failure after a safe and legal abortion performed at Delta Women's Clinic in Baton Rouge on January 20, 1990.
family sued the clinic and its doctors, Richardson P. Glidden and
Thomas Booker. They faulted the doctors with failing to diagnose Ingar's
kidney problems, or her deteriorating physical condition, before,
during, or after the abortion. Ingar was transported to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, where she died.
Delta had also been sued following the death of another abortion patient. This woman was most likely 27-year-old Sheila Hebert, who died after an abortion on June 6, 1984.
The Roommates' Abortions
Some time in November or
December of 1955, 26-year-old Lucy Sanchez started casting about for an abortionist. A man named Ira Gin brought 26-year-old homemaker Lois Brown to the cafe where Lucy
worked and introduced them, telling Lucy, "This is the lady you want to
see." They made
an appointment to meet in front of the post office at 6:00 the following
Lucy and her
roommate, Clara Thornton, who was also pregnant, went to Brown, who
said that her name was Vi, on January 18, 1956.
that she and Lucy met Brown on the street and got into a car with her.
Brown asked "how far along I was and I told her that I was three months
along. She said I didn't have anything to worry about. Lois said that
Lucy was a bit further ahead of me [six months pregnant] and it was a
little more dangerous for her to go through with it, but said she would
be all right, if Lucy would be in the care of Vi and present to tie the
baby's navel cord and watch her from hemorrhaging."
Since Clara had the $100 abortion fee ready, Lucy went home and Brown took Clara to her practice and used a syringe to inject Clara with a solution that looked and smelled like Lifebouy soap.
Clara suffered pain and discharge of fluid and clots that night and into the following day. Brown came by to check on her and reassured the roommates and their friend, Beatrice Duran, that Clara would be fine. She also recommended that Clara go to a doctor and claim to have a cold in order to get a penicillin shot.
showed Clara's friends how to massage her abdomen, telling them to do it
periodically, "so everything that was left in there would come out."
After attending to
Clara, Brown pressured Lucy to come up with the money to have an
abortion as well, going so far as to drive Lucy to Ira Gin's house to try to borrow it from him. He vouched for Lucy's honesty and assured Brown that Lucy would pay.
Brown had evidently come to some agreement with Lucy Sanchez. She went to the young women's home on January 26 and left with Lucy at about 3
At about 7:30 that
evening, Brown went to the cafe where Clara worked, asking her to come
to take Lucy home. Brown told Clara that she had done the abortion at around 5:00, which left Lucy bleeding, dizzy, barely conscious, and moaning loudly in pain.
Clara went to
Brown's practice with her. Brown's mother was there as well. Lucy was
lying on a couch, with her raincoat and some newspapers under her, and
covered with a blanket and a bedspread. There was blood on the
bedspread, newspapers, raincoat, and on Lucy. Clara also saw Lucy's
clothing there. Brown was acting nervous and excited.
Clara helped Brown
carry Lucy down to the car, and accompanied by Brown's mother they drove
Lucy to a hospital. Brown instructed Clara to tell staff there that
Lucy had been in this condition at home, and that Clara had called Brown
As Clara sat
outside the emergency room with Brown and Brown's mother, Brown told
Clara "she knew she shouldn't have done it, and took out her wallet,
took out $30 and gave it to me and said those $30 were to help me in
case Lucy needed anything."
But Lucy was beyond needing any help. A doctor came out and informed the three women that Lucy had died.
The doctor who
performed the autopsy said that Lucy had bled to death from large blood
vessels in the uterus, and that the membranes had been forcibly
separated, likely "by some blunt object which produced dilation of the
cervix." The uterine membranes were a dark brown color with a granular
appearance, which the physician testified could have been caused by the
introduction of chemicals.
Brown testified in
her trial that she had been introduced to Lucy, but had only told
Lucy that she would look for somebody to "help her", perhaps to arrange
for her to go to Tijuana.
The jury found Brown guilty of both
abortions -- Lucy's and Clara's -- and of the murder of Lucy. Brown
appealed on the grounds that she couldn't be convicted of two crimes --
murder and abortion -- for the same act. The court agreed with her,
letting the murder conviction stand and throwing out the abortion
conviction. She was sentenced to prison for five years to life for Lucy's murder and two to five years on for Clara's abortion.
A Doctor Implicated in Chicago
On January 26, 1920, 24-year-old Lydia Swanson, daughter of Swedish immigrants, died at Chicago's Post Graduate Hospital from an abortion attributed to Dr. Rosa Gollnick. Lydia had developed septic inflammation of both lungs. Gollnick was arrested on January 27 and went to trial, but was acquitted on June 18 for reasons I have been unable to determine.