Monday, January 29, 2007

Illegal abortion anniversary: Rose Lipner

It's not easy to hide the body when you kill somebody during the commission of a crime, as many a criminal has discovered. This was true when the crime was an illegal abortion. Those who scoff at the idea that the authorities could uncover even a fraction of criminal abortion deaths should reflect on cases such as the death of Rose Lipner, a 32-year-old mother of two.

Rose died at Riverdale (maternity) Hospital on January 29, 1936. Dr. Maxwell C. Katz, who both operated and lived at Riverdale, signed a death certificate indicating that Rose had died of complications of surgery he'd performed to treat a tumor.

After the funeral, an anonymous caller notified the police that Rose's death was suspicious. Based on this anonymous call, the authorities had Rose's body exhumed, and an autopsy was performed.

The medical examiner discovered that Rose had died not from surgery for a tumor, but from an illegal abortion.

Katz was arraigned for second-degree manslaughter in Rose's death.

This dynamic is so important it bears repeating:
  • Performing an elective abortion was a crime.
  • Failing to report a death from an elective abortion was a crime.
  • Killing somebody during the commission of a crime wasn't something the cops just brushed off.
  • An anonymous call was enough to have a woman's body exhumed for autopsy to discern if she had, in fact, been killed during the commission of a crime.

Now that abortion is a "right" rather than a crime, a woman's death is no longer a criminal matter. There is nobody -- not the medical board, not hospital accreditation boards, not maternal mortality committees, not the police -- that will go prying about based on a report that a woman's death was actually due to an abortion. Abortion deaths are purely a civil matter. And even if the family sues, the case gets publicity, and the death is openly known to be an abortion death, the Centers for Disease Control no longer have any interest in counting it. (See the case of Latachie Veal).

Roe vs. Wade decreased the chances that a woman's abortion death will be noticed, investigated, and counted, by making it a private matter the authorities have no cause to involve themselves with. And until we fully grasp this fact, our thinking about abortion mortality statistics will be based on false premises.

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