Monday, June 12, 2006

On This Date

Kendra McLeod, mother of two, underwent an abortion at a clinic in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on June 12, 1998. Complications of that abortion would eventually take her life.


In June of 1902, Irene Wengel traveled to Tampa, Florida, where she was met by her cousin, J. Carl Christian. Christian had arranged for her to stay at the home of Dr. Frederick N. Weightnovel for an abortion. Christian visited Irene many times during her stay at Weightnovel's home. Two days after her arrival, Irene asked Christian to telegraph to Waycross for her trunk.

Testimony about days and dates is evidently jumbled. The abortion was reportedly performed June 6, which was a Friday. But Irene's cousin reported that he visited her on a Wednesday, about a week before her death, and she'd told him that Weightnovel had performed the abortion the previous night, and that she'd be ready to go home the following Tuesday. The only date we can perhaps rely upon is the date of Irene's death: June 12.

Dr. B. G. Abernathy was called in to attend to Irene after the abortion. Abernathy testified that Irene told him she'd come to Weightnovel about two weeks earlier, that she did well the first day or two after the abortion, but that she became very sick and rapidly declined.

Abernathy diagnosed her Irene suffering from blood poisoning caused by retained placenta. Abernathy asked Weightnovel for a curette so that he could perform a D&C, and Weightnovel provided one. Abernathy also returned to his own house to get some other instruments. At some point Weightnovel asked Abernathy to send a telegram to Irene's parents.

State's witness Frank Middaugh testified that on the night Irene died, he'd heard the cries of a girl calling, "Doctor, doctor," from Weightnovel's house. Middaugh also testified that he saw Weightnovel sitting in a lighted window, fanning himself.

An undertaker testified that he'd been summoned to remove Irene's body, and was asked to do so quietly and discreetly to keep the news of Irene's death secret.

Officer Carter, who arrested Weightnovel, testified that when he made the arrest, Weightnovel picked up a bundle of women's clothing, which he rolled up and tried to toss under a table. Carter saw that the clothing was stained and took the clothing into evidence.

Weightnovel was convicted of manslaughter in Irene's death.


Mia C. said that she had an abortion performed by P. Scott Ricke at Inglewood's Belous Medical Clinic June 12, 1980. She was 12 weeks pregnant. The abortion was incomplete, and she had to be hospitalized for further treatment.


On June 12, 1990, an investigation verified that Ronachai Banchongmanie's abortion facility was operating illegally. "Relsco," on the first floor of the building, performed pregnancy tests. The receptionist would give each patient an unlabeled paper cup and send her down the hall to a restroom shared by other businesses in the building. Rather than using a lab, the receptionist would do a pregnancy test at her desk and would orally give the patient her results, in the waiting room with no privacy. The receptionist would then dump the urine into a lidless glass coffee jar on her desk. When the jar filled with urine, the receptionist would go down the hallway to the public restroom and dump the urine. She did not wash her hands between tests. Pregnancy tests were performed with kits that were out of date. No counselor saw the patients. If the test was positive, the patient was sent upstairs to "Women's Health Services.

The investigation also found out from staff that physicians did not remain on the premises until all patients were discharged. Instead, the doctor left, and instructed staff to page him if there were any complications. The staff also told investigators that patients were not given complete post-operative instructions before discharge. Physicians did not perform any post-operative evaluations of patients unless staff asked him to examine a particular patient. The discharge instructions and medications were given to patients by whatever staff happened to be available, regardless of their qualifications.

The investigation also could not find out if Banchongmanie and his other physicians were washing their hands for examinations or surgery, because they refused to answer any questions about the issue. The pre-operative area was supervised by a registered nurse; the post-operative area had only a licensed practical nurse, and the operating room had only a technician. Staff substantiated that Pitocin was administered intravenously pre-operatively by an LPN without any physician present. Staff also substantiated that improperly trained and supervised staff -- including the front desk staff -- were participating in all aspects of patient care including surgery.

Staff substantiated that they began preparing patients for their abortions at 7 a.m., but that no physician was scheduled to be in the building until 9 a.m. Staff substantiated that they had no job descriptions, no criteria for performance evaluations, and no formal chain of command for responsibilities within the facility.

During the investigations, patients and their mothers were observed weeping in the hallway and reception area. They were not provided with counseling or even with a private area.

The investigation report described the facility as "dark, dirty, and drafty," with loose or missing floor tiles in the hallways of both the first and fourth floors. Carpets were littered and filthy. Ceiling tiles were dirty, missing, or water stained. Rooms were cluttered with unused furniture and supplies. The restrooms were dirty, with missing toilet tissue holders or broken. The room for preparing sterile supplies was filthy, "cluttered with unused, discarded equipment and stock supplies." The walls were chipped, peeling, and dirty. Garbage was overflowing from trash cans onto the floor. Equipment was wrapped for sterilization in stained wrappings, and too much equipment was loaded into the autoclave when it was used. The patient dressing room had brown stains, consistent with blood or Betadine, on the chair. Blankets and recliners in the recovery room were not changed between patients, and staff were not sure if pillow cases were changed between patients. Clean and soiled linens were stored together.

The investigation found that the facility had no policy for how areas were to be cleaned after surgery. Surgical equipment, including forceps and dilators, were expired. Surgical equipment was lying about on dirty, dusty trays. Medications were stored in a dirty, unlocked cabinet in the recovery room. Discharge medications were in packets on a desk. Staff substantiated that whoever happened to be working in recovery would prepare discharge medication packets from bulk jars of medicines. The staff also confirmed that they did not perform many required tests, such as coagulation tests. The equipment used to test for gonorrhea was not working properly. Improperly labeled and out-of-date tissue specimens were found in the refrigerator.

The investigation found that there was no written policy on the examination of abortion tissues. The autoclaves were not checked or tested. Staff handled blood and body fluids without wearing gloves. One registered nurse's personnel file had no documentation that she was licensed in the state, or that she was trained in CPR. Another nurse, this one an LPN, also had no verification of CPR training, and had an out-of-date verification of license. Yet another LPN was found to not be currently licensed.

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