Monday, April 30, 2007

Anniversary: Fatal abortion, doctor arrested

On April 30, 1923, 29-year-old Emma Herod died in her Chicago home from an abortion performed there that day. Dr. Emma J. Warren was arrested for the death. On July 15, Warren was indicted for felony murder in Emma Herod's death.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A converstion story

Over at Jill Stanek's blog.

Anniversary: One of three deaths at Friendship Medical Center

Survivors of Julia L. Rogers, age 20, alleged that she underwent an abortion by Theodore Roosevelt Mason Howard at Friendship Medical Center in Chicago on April 21, 1973.

Julia's death certificate states that her death April 28 at Tabernacle Hospital was due to "bronchopneumonia and generalized peritonitis complicating extensive necrotizing endometritis and myometritis with sealed perforation."

In other words, she developed pnuemonia on top of peritonitis. A hole had been poked in her uterus, causing an infection that made the muscle tissue of her uterus start to rot inside her.

Evelyn Dudley and Dorothy Brown also died after abortions at Friendship Medical Center.

Anniversary: Home abortion proves fatal for California woman

In Chapter 4 of Lime 5, Mona wrote of the death of a 32-year-old California woman I'll call "Daisy." We learned of Daisy's death by ordering a database run of all deaths in California that met the ICD codes for abortion. We then ordered death certificates and, where possible, autopsy reports. Daisy's death certificate is No. 90-079380. Her autopsy report from the San Bernadino County Coroner's office is number 90-2384.

Daisy was not a poor, ignorant woman. To the contrary, she was a systems analyst for a defense contractor. Daisy knew that abortion was legal and readily available. She had an appointment to abort her second-trimester pregnancy scheduled for April 30, 1990, at a local abortion clinic.

But for some reason, Daisy didn't wait for her appointment. On April 28, she allowed her boyfriend to insert a plastic tube into her uterus in a home-abortion attempt. Daisy died of complications of that abortion.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Illegal anniversary: Bizarre, gruesome death

Dr. Charles P. Wood admitted that Elvira Woodward had come to his house in Manchester, New Hampshire, on April 1 and remained there until her death on April 27. He said that she'd expelled a dead fetus on April 3, and that she suffered from puerperal fever.

Elvira took ill, languishing and finally dying on April 27, at about 2:30 PM, at Wood's house.

Dr. Wood said that that morning, Elvira had told him that she had a sense of impending death. A Daniel K. White testified on Wood's behalf, saying, "knew Elvira Woodward; saw her at Dr. Wood's house the morning of the day she died; found very large gash in her throat; Dr. Wood stepped to the bed and removed a towel from her throat. I saw Dr. Ferguson there; Dr. Wood went for him about ten minutes after I got there; she looked pale, quite so; apparently recognized me by a nod of the head; I observed nothing else, except that her throat was cut, and there was a good deal of blood upon her bed-clothes; she said she did not expect to live till noon; that she was sorry she didn't do the deed at once, and go where her mother was; that she would be glad to die; that she didn't expect to live till noon, and probably shouldn't."

White said that only he was present when Elvira made that statement, because Dr. Wood had gone to fetch Dr. Ferguson.

Elvira's sister, Florence Woodward, testified in a deposition that she'd seen Elvira at Dr. Wood's house twice on the day she died.

Florence had made the first visit at around 10 or 11 in the morning. Dr. Wood and his wife were there, and a Mrs. Eaton had accompanied Florence. They stayed with Elvira about an hour, but Elvira didn't speak to them, but seemed to recognize her visitors. A man who Florence believed to be Dr. Ferguson passed through Elvira's room briefly.

Florence visited her sister again between 2 and 3 in the afternoon, at which time her Elvira was unconscious and clearly dying. Florence said that she'd never seen Elvira at Dr. Wood's house before that day. Florence also indicated that it wasn't until after Elvira's death that she knew her sister died from any cause other than fever.

Dr. Ferguson was called in Dr. Wood's defense. He testified that Dr. Wood had summoned him and he found Elvira looking "very pale, worn, emaciated, and desponding." He removed a cloth from her throat and found it wounded. "I asked her why she had attempted to hasten death by suicide. Told her that her condition was so low already that a few hours would extinguish life. I said to others in her presence and hearing that she would possibly die in the morning, or in the early part of the afternoon. She said she did not much care; that she had no desire to live."

On cross-examination, Dr. Ferguson said that the cut on Elvira's throat was superficial. Nevertheless, he didn't expect her to survive the day. He sutured Elvira's throat at Dr. Wood's request. He aslo noted that Elvira was frequently vomiting.

One of Dr. Wood's defense witnesses said that on the morning of her death, Elvira said that she'd been operated on previously by a Dr. McCooms for an abortion. Dr. McCooms had operated on her three times at a place in Manchester and once at Suncook. She also reportedly told the witness that Dr. McCoombs had prescribed oil of savin for her, which she ingested. She said that she'd expelled a fetus on April 3.

A Mrs. Merrill, Elvira's landlady, testified that she'd accompanied Elvira to Dr. McCoomb's rooms at the Manchester House on February 8. Elvira spent about an hour with Dr. McCoomb in an inner room. Mrs. Merrill said that she herself only briefly been in the inner room herself, at which time she saw Dr. McCoomb performing an abortion on Elvira.

A Joseph Ferrin testified that he'd lent Elvira a shawl on March 29. She told him that she was going to Lowell. When she returned the shawl, Ferrin testfied, she said that she'd gone to have an operation performed.

Dr. Ferguson testified that all he knew of oil of savin is what he'd elarned from reading, and that it was supposed to be capable of causing abortion. He thought that oil of savin might be responsible for Elvira's condition when he saw her.

A Dr. Webb of Boston testified that at the request of an attorny, he'd examined Elvira on March 20, 1871. He said her uterus was enlarged and he could feel movement in the womb and he heard a fetal heartbeat. He estimated that she was four or five months pregnant.

A Dr. Buck testified that he performed a post-mortem examination of Elvira's body at North Troy, Vermont, on May 2. He said that there was no fetus, but that there was evidence that she'd been "delivered by artificial means." Dr. Buck said that he saw no signs that Elvira's kidneys or stomach had been damaged by any kind of poison, and that any drug that would cause an abortion that far advanced into a pregnancy would also damage the mother's organs. A Dr. Gilman Kimball concurred in his testimony.

A Mr. Ober testified that he'd heard reports prior to the trial that Dr. Wood had once had an office or lying-in hospital in Hollis, and that it was reported that Dr. Wood performed abortions there.

Dr. Wood was convicted of performing the fatal aboriton on Elvira.

Anniversary: Mom bleeds to death in front of three kids

On April 27, 1990, 23-year-old Sandra Milton underwent an abortion, performed by Dr. Carl Armstrong at Toledo Medical Services in Ohio. (Armstrong is John Roe 67 in Lime 5.)

Sandra's abortion was performed at 10 a.m., and she was discharged shortly thereafter for the 90-minute drive home.

The babysitter stayed with Sandra and her three children for three hours as the young mother slipped in and out of consciousness and suffered pain and abdominal swelling. Twice the alarmed babysitter called the clinic, but was told that the symptoms were normal. The third time the babysitter called the clinic, she got no response at all, and summoned an ambulance.

Sandra was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. She had bled to death.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Anniversary: Third death after abortion by Crist

Twenty-two-year-old Nicole Williams was the third patient known to have died of abortion complications under the dubious care of Dr. Robert Crist. The others were Latachie Veal and Diane Boyd.

Nichole submitted to a first-trimester abortion at Reproductive Health Services in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 25, 1997.

Reproductive Health Services, a National Abortion Federation member facility, is operated by Planned Parenthood of St. Louis. Crist serves as medical director.

During the abortion, Nichole began to have difficulty breathing. Crist completed the abortion, then had staff summon an ambulance. Nichole was rushed to Barnes-Jewish Hospital. She died later that day, leaving behind three children.

Nichole's death was officially attributed to disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC). Hers is the only case I've ever read of linking DIC with first-trimester abortion.

Prolifers were sceptical about the reports of DIC, and say that they believe Nichole's uterus was ruptured.

Aside from being the third death attributed to Crist, Nichole was also the third death attributed to RHS. Diane Boyd's fatal abortion had taken place at RHS, and 14-year-old Sandra Kaiser committed suicide after a 1984 abortion at RHS, performed without her mother's knowledge or consent.

Three illegal anniversaries

Today marks the anniversary of another of the string of Oklahoma City illegal abortion deaths. April 25, 1932, 17-year-old Mrs. Frank Lee, a University of Oklahoma co-ed, lost her life. Richard E. Thacker, a surgeon, was charged with the death.


In January of 1902, Abraham Conheim promised marriage to 19-year-old Harriet Larocque. According to her father, Harriet was "previously chaste and of good reputation." With the promise of marriage, Harriet became sexually involved with Conheim.

In April of 1902, Harriet discovered that she was pregnant. Conheim reneged on his promise of marriage, and instead arranged a criminal abortion for her. Harriet took ill after the abortion, dying on April 25.

Harriet‘s father sued Conheim for seducing and debauching his daughter, impregnanting her, and causing her death.


On April 25, 1899, Sarah Messinger died in St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago from an abortion performed by Marie Kampfer. Sarah died at the crime scene on the day the abortion was performed. Kampfer was held for $5,000 bond by Coroner's Jury.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Anniversary: One in a string of illegal deaths in Oklahoma

J. W. Elsiminger was an osteopath in Oklahoma City. He was the suspect in the abortion death of Virginia Lee Wyckoff, a 21-year-old student at the University of Oklahmoa. Virginia died April 24, 1932. Elsiminger was charged with murder in her death. He was implicated in a string of abortion deaths in the area, along with Richard E. Thacker, another Oklahoma City area physician.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

UK study: 1 in 20 "medical indications" fetuses born alive, left to die

One baby in 30 left alive after medical termination

Now, is the problem that we're not killing them effectively enough, or that we're killing babies that could survive if we didn't let them die of neglect, or is this not a problem?

Gianna, of course, sympathizes with the babies, having been an aborted fetus herself.

Anniversary: Joyce Johnson dies after abortion by prochoice icon Harvey Karman

During April of 1955 Harvey Karman (pictured) was working at the Clinical School of the Psychology Department of the University of California at Los Angeles, seeking a doctorate in psychology. He was not licensed to practice medicine.

Around early February of 1955, 26-year-old Joyce Johnson told her husband, Ben, that she was pregnant. They discussed an abortion. Joyce had a friend named Patricia who she saw shortly before she met Karman. Prior to the abortion, according to both Patricia and Joyce's husband, Joyce was in good health.

On April 6, 1955, Karman met Joyce in a motel room and, using a speculum, inserted a nutcracker into Joyce in order to perform an abortion.

On April 8, Joyce's husband took her to St. Joseph's Hospital. She was examined by a Dr. Moss who diagnosed her as suffering from "an infected criminal abortion." The dead fetus was still in her uterus. She expelled it while at St. Joseph's.

On April 13, Joyce was transferred to General Hospital for specialized treatment. She died there on April 21. An autopsy was performed, and Joyce's death blamed on bronchial pneumonia brought on by the septic abortion.

During the trial, a photograph of the autopsy was available, but the district attorney didn't display it. He instead told the jury, "you can look at it up in the jury room if you are so inclined--it's an autopsy picture--I'm not going to show it to you because some people don't like to see things like that--she was 26 years old April 6th. She was a girl in good health. She was pregnant. She wanted to do something about having an abortion for this pregnancy."

The district attorney also told the jury, "Frankly, I don't know how you feel about this matter of abortion--it is a matter of difference of opinion. Some people say well, people can't afford it, it's all right to have an abortion. Some people say if the woman's health won't stand it it's all right to have an abortion. Our law says it's all right to have an abortion if her health is of such nature she can't have a baby. Some people think abortions are all right. Some people are absolutely against all of them. If you want to know the truth, I'm pretty much against all abortions myself, I think it's a terrible thing for a girl to be talked into this."

The appeals court found it "improper for the district attorney to express his personal belief as to all abortion," but noted that since the jury was admonished to ignore the comment Karman had no grounds for appeal in the fact that the DA made the comment.

Karman's defense called a Dr. Gilbert as an expert. He reviewed the autopsy report and medical records, an opined that Joyce did not die from a septic abortion. He was paid $150 for his testimony, ironically the same amount Joyce paid for the abortion.

The defense also appealed on the grounds that the the DA unduly prejudiced the jury by bringing out in cross-examining Karman that he'd been conviced previously of a felony. The appeals court ruled that this was proper impeachment of a witness.

Karman's defense also argued that Joyce's husband and friend were improperly granted immunity after they originally refused to testify.

Karman's defense also claimed that the prosecution failed to prove that the abortion wasn't necessary to save Joyce's life. But the appeals court found that the testimony of Joyce's husband and friend that Joyce had been in good health, settled that matter. Of course, pure logic would prove that matter, since Joyce was seeking an illegal abortion from an amateur in a motel room. Had her life been in danger, an ob/gyn would have been able to admit her to a hospital and perform the abortion there.

An appeals court found that the district attorney's statement that what defendant did was "absolute butchery" was fair argument on the facts, and not an unduly prejudicious statement. It came out in the case that Joyce's husband was dating another woman and therefore had an interest in Joyce securing an abortion.

Karman was convicted of the abortion by a jury.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Anniversary: Bled to death after safe, legal abortion

Mary Paredez was 26 years old when she underwent an abortion at San Jose Hospital on April 19, 1977. During the procedure, Mary's uterus was perforated. She began to hemorrhage. Less than seven hours later, she was dead. The autopsy found 2500 cc of blood in Mary's abdomen.

Anniversary: Illegal death, doctor implicated

Hughretta "Etta" Binkley was an unmarried woman about 34 years old. She worked as a stenographer and typist at Patee Bicycle Company in Peoria. She lived in a boardinghouse owned by George H. Lilly, where she shared a room with Lilly's daughter.

At lunchtime on April 1, 1898, she went to the residence/office of Dr.Belle Howard, aka Belle Shotwell, about four blocks from the boarding house. After work the following day, at about 6:30 PM, she returned to Dr. Howard's house and was sent to a room on the second floor. Etta had a bag packed with a nightgown, robe, fountain syringe, and a bottle containing about two ounces of ergot.

According to Ida Kennedy, Dr. Howard's nurse, at about 10:00 the next morning, Etta went into the doctor's office where she remained about 20 to 30 minutes. She then went upstairs to her room, in Ida's care.

Etta was in pain, and bleeding heavily vaginally. At around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, Dr. Howard visited her in her room, then had her come back downstairs to his office where she again remained alone with her for between 20 and 30 minutes. Again, Ida took Etta to her room.

Soon after returning to her room, Etta suffered from rapid pulse and a copious discharge of blood and clear fluid. Etta remained at Dr. Howard's house, attended by the doctor and nurse, until the evening of Saturday, April 9. At that time, Dr. Howard drove Etta in her buggy back to the boarding house, where she left her alone on the porch. Mr. Lilly found her there as he was locking up for the night. He discribed her as being in "a very helpless and distressed condition."

Mr. Lilly brought her into the house, where she went to her room and retired to her usual bed with Lilly's daughter. (It was not uncommon at that time for adults to share a bed in a boarding house, purely as roommates.)

The following morning, at about 9:00, Etta went to the nearby Cottage Hospital, where she was immediately admitted. Staff physician Otho B. Will was immediately summoned to care for her.

Dr. Will found Etta to be trembling, breathing rapidly, suffering a pulse of 140 and a fever of just over 102 degrees. She was frequently vomiting. Dr. Will examined her and performed surgery to remove decaying and fetid retained portions of placenta.

Etta remained hospitalized under Dr. Will's care until April 19, when she died of septicemia. Her body was sent to her parents in Dublin, Indiana, for burial, but then exhumed on the 23rd for an autopsy. It was then confirmed that the septicemia had been caused by an abortion. Experts estimated that Etta had been four to five months pregnant.

Immediately after Etta's death, Dr. Howard fled the state and had to be captured and returned for face trial. Dr. Howard maintained her innocence and insisted that she was merely treating Etta for complications of an abortion performed either by Etta herself or by some other party. The prosecution said that up until her arrival at Dr. Howard's house, Etta had been in good health and had performed her duties at work. However, Miss Lilly reported that Etta had not seemed to be in her usual health just prior to the 2nd of April, and that she had observed bleeding that she took to be Etta's period. Ida Kennedy, the nurse, also testified that on her way to her room on the 2nd, Etta left drops of blood on the floor.

Dr. Howard was convicted of manslaughter in Etta's death. A Fred Patee was also charged in the death, but my documents do not make it clear what his role was.

Anniversary: NAF member lets woman die

Twenty-year-old Gloria went to National Abortion Federation member Hanan Rotem in Stamford, Connecticut, for an abortion on April 19, 1986. A few hours after the abortion, Gloria was declared dead from hemorrhage at a nearby hospital.

Rotem claimed that Gloria had died from an amniotic fluid embolism. An investigation by health officials found that Rotem had failed to perform necessary blood tests, and had permitted a receptionist with no medical training to administer anesthesia.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Two safe and legal anniversaries: blood poisoning and suicide

Life Dynamics lists 30-year-old Barbara Lerner on their "Blackmun Wall" of women killed by legal abortions. LDI notes that Barbara was found dead early in the morning of April 18, 1981. She had developed blood poisoning, which had killed her. She died in Florida. The CDC investigated Barbara's death and designated it as due to legal abortion.


"Sandra" was 18 years old when she underwent a first-trimester abortion procedure in New York. Three days later, on April 18, 1971, Sandra killed herself. Before her death, she had expressed guilt about having "killed her baby."

Tragically, nobody had contacted Sandra to give her the results of the pathology report on what had been removed from her uterus. There had been no embryo. Sandra had not actually been pregnant.

See also:
  • The Abortion-Suicide Link
  • Arlin della Cruiz, Post-Abortion Suicide
  • "Missie Guthrie", Post-Abortion Suicidal Depression
  • Stacy Zallie, Post-Abortion Suicide
  • Sandra Kaiser, Post-Abortion Suicide
  • Carol Cunningham, Post-Abortion Suicide
  • "Haley Mason", Post-Abortion Suicide
  • Study Links Abortion, Women's Violent Deaths
  • Monday, April 16, 2007

    Anniversary: Second in a string of illegal abortion deaths

    On April 15, 1932, Ruth Hall died of suspected abortion complications. Two physicians in the University of Oklahoma area, J. W. Elsiminger and Richard E. Thacker, were suspected in the case, as they had been in the death of Isobel Ferguson the previous day.

    Anniversary: Teen dies after undiagnosed puncture of uterus

    Life Dynamics lists 16-year-old Maureen Espinoza on their "Blackmun Wall" of women killed by legal abortions. Citing an article in the San Antonio Express-News dated April 24, 1997, LDI notes that Maureen's abortion was performed at a doctor's office in San Antonio on March 28, 1997. The abortionist punctured Maureen's uterus, but took no note of the complication. Maureen was admitted through the emergency room at NE Baptist Hospital on April 3. She underwent two surgeries to try to save her life. She died on April 15, 1997.

    For more abortion deaths, visit the Cemetery of Choice:

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    Saturday, April 14, 2007

    Sparing moms and kids

    Ashli's new book is out!

    Now moms have a new resource for getting past Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Pass it on!

    Illegal anniversaries

    Ethel Crowell, age 20, died on April 14, 1930, in the office of Dr. Hans Paulsen, from an abortion performed on her that day. Two days later, Paulsen was booked for manslaughter by abortion. The baby's father, Uriah Deniston, was booked as accessory.

    Paulson was held by the Coroner for murder by abortion. Denniston wasn't mentioned in the verdict. On September 1, the indictment was quashed. The source notes "Circumstances suggesting judicial corruption."


    On April 14, 1932, Mrs. Isobel F. Ferguson died of suspected abortion complications. Two physicians in the University of Oklahoma area, J. W. Elsiminger and Richard E. Thacker, were suspected in the case. Elsiminger and Thacker were implicated in a string of abortion deaths.

    Thursday, April 12, 2007

    RIP, Kurt Vonnegut

    'Slaughterhouse-Five' Author Kurt Vonnegut Dies at 84

    Though I vehemently disagreed with him on many issues, I loved Vonnegut and the voice he gave to such poignant issues: dehumanization, demoralization, despair. All while making me laugh.

    My favorite novel remains Cat's Cradle, in which the fake religion, Bokononism, reflects my understanding of Christianity far better than any serious theologian's attempts ever have. Yet Cat's Cradle is a dark novel about the lies we tell ourselves to function. The title comes from Newt's reflection on the tangle of string adults shove into kids' faces, identified as a "cat's cradle" -- there's no cat, and no cradle. It's dark story in honor of which I wrote a bit of doggerel:

    My father tried to tell me how to live a good life
    Get a job, work hard, be a good wife
    Raise my kids right so they can live the same way
    It's all a cat's cradle. Daddy taught me how to play

    I went away to college to fill my head with truth
    The wisdom of the aged and the ideals of the youth
    Learned all that I would need to find fortune and fame
    And I got a cat's cradle in a fine blue frame

    I found myself a husband, a mate to share my days
    Someone to walk beside me, to journey on my way
    You need someone to cling to, someone to try to trust
    So we built a cat's cradle out of lonliness and lust

    My kids look to me to teach them how to live
    I want a good gift for them, but what have I to give?
    Every rhyme needs a reason, every story needs a plot
    And this damned cat's cradle is the only thing I've got

    RIP, Mr. Vonnegut. Thank you for articulating so much that I never would have found the words for myself.

    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    Anniversary: Doc does fatal abortion while out on bail on murder charges

    Abortionist Raymond E. Showery was out on bail appealing a murder conviction when he performed the abortion that killed 28-year-old Mickey Apodaca.

    Mickey, a divorced mother of four, went to Showery's Southside Medical Center in El Paso for an abortion April 11, 1984. Showery's defense team said that Mickey was not bleeding excessively immediately after her abortion, but that a nurse discovered the hemorrhage, and Mickey was taken into the operating room for a transfusion. However, Showery would not provide Mickey's records to the Grand Jury on the grounds that they might incriminate him.

    It turns out that during the abortion, Showery had torn a hole in Mickey's uterus and severed a uterine artery. Mickey hemorrhaged for two hours before she was transferred to a hospital, where she died during an emergency hysterectomy.

    The prosecution charged that Showery used inadequately trained staff, failed to properly treat the injuries he'd caused Mickey, delayed treatment, and delayed transfer to a hospital.

    Showery performed Mickey's fatal abortion while out on bail pending appeal for his murder conviction. Several of Showery's employees had gone to the police and reported that Showery had drowned a baby girl who had survived a 1979 abortion.

    Showery was held pending $1 million dollars bail while awaiting trial for manslaughter in Mickey's death. While he was in prison, local prochoicers rallied outside with signs asserting that Showery was "a good man" and that he "helps the poor." The fact that he helped Mickey Apodaca straight into an early grave was lost on them.

    Anniversary: Patient dies after abandonment by physician

    On April 6, 1991, "Terri", age 34, had an abortion at a doctor's office in the 1100 block of Summit Avenue in Union City, New Jersey. A nurse called the police saying that they needed emergency help for an unconscious patient.

    According to the police report, the doctor had already left the facility when the nurse called for help. Terri was taken to the hospital and placed on life support. She was pronounced dead on April 11, 1991.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    The queasy prochoicer

    HT: Jill Stanek

    I knew where I stood on abortion. But I had to rethink.

    I'll have to beg to differ with a lot of what she says, but kudos for having the courage to re-examine her beliefs! A staunchly prochoice broadcaster, Miranda Sawyer, did some soul searching.

    A few snippets:

    I spent some time thinking about the precise point when our baby came into existence. Was he there before I did the test? Something was, or the test couldn't have come up positive. But what? A person? A potential person? Life? What was life exactly?

    I wonder how many prochoicers even ponder the issue. Many that I've met are simply reflexively prochoice, because everybody they know is. Others discount that the ZEF has any relevance whatsoever, beyond being unwelcome. It could be fully sentient, composing symphonies in there or coming up with a Grand Unified Theory, and it wouldn't matter. And it sounds as if this woman was at one point on of those prochoicers who had simply never given it any thought. Until reality struck in the form of two lines on a pregnancy test.

    Sawyer reflects on her grandmother's final days, and on how that raised new thoughts:

    At one point, when my mum and I were sitting with her, Granny suddenly began moaning, clawing at the tubes going in and out of her body. I looked into her face. She gazed back, distraught, still grabbing and waving, imploring. I suddenly became convinced that she wanted me to pull out the drips. She needed me to help her to die. And I thought about doing it, but I just couldn't. No matter how much I loved my Granny - and I did - and no matter how horrible the situation she was in - and it was - I couldn't end her life. I told her so. I watched her flail in frustration for a while. Then she stopped. She died two days later.

    Skip forward two years - during which I got pregnant and gave birth to a son, Patrick - and I am making a television documentary about abortion rights in the United States for More4. But what I'm really doing is trying to answer the questions that my Granny's death threw up for me. Is it ever morally right to kill? What if you love the person you're killing? Does it make any difference if you don't want them to die? What if they're a long way from being a full person - independent, full-facultied, vital - should that affect your decision?

    Again, did she ponder those questions during all the previous years she'd been prochoice?

    Like most women - at least most British women - I have always been firmly in the pro-choice camp because I've spent nearly all of my sexually active life trying not to get pregnant.

    Here I'll beg to differ. Polls show women more polarized on abortion than men, but equally likely to find it abhorent as to want it available.

    I personally consider it slander to say that being female makes me "prochoice." To me, you might as well note my German ancestry and assume in all earnestness that I'm a Nazi sympathizer who laments that the ovens at Auschwitz were shut down. Imagine for a moment people honestly believing, say, that being white automatically meant that you were a member of the KKK and that you kept a rope for lynchings in the trunk of your car. How would you feel? That's how I feel when people assume I'm prochoice. I consider abortion to be the most loathsome, heinous crime against humanity a person can commit, and it's an insult to everything I am and everything I believe in to presume I would in any way condone it for myself or anybody else. Spit in my face if you will, kick me, kill me, but never put the label "pro-choice" on me. It's an assault on my basic human dignity.

    When I got pregnant so soon after my Granny's death, it felt weird. My mind kept returning to the pregnancy test. If my reaction to those fateful double lines that said 'baby ahead' had been horror instead of hurrah ... then I would have had little hesitation in having an abortion. But it was that very fact that was confusing me. I was calling the life inside me a baby because I wanted it. Yet if I hadn't, I would think of it just as a group of cells that it was OK to kill. It was the same entity. It was merely my response to it that determined whether it would live or die. That seemed irrational to me. Maybe even immoral.

    To prolifers, that's a big, DUH!

    A civilised society should allow us to have children if and when we desire them.

    Which I would not argue with. It's the killing ones that already exist that I have a problem with. The very fact that a fetus is so small and dependent cries out for protection, not for aggression.

    They include Roy McMillan. I hung out with Roy outside the clinic as he confronted young, mostly black, women coming in for a termination and tried to persuade them to turn back. It wasn't a comfortable morning. 'Shame on you, coming in here with a cross around your neck!' Roy shouted at one poor girl. 'Are you going to nail your baby to the cross?'

    I do have to say I find Roy's behavior appalling and counter-productive.

    If I'm honest, it seemed that everyone - philosopher, politician, crank - just takes a stance and then justifies it.

    If Sawyer only recently started asking herself the questions, she, too, spent most of her life having simply taken a stance and then justifying it.

    Lord, this was confusing. If an embryo can survive being artificially created, being frozen, being FedExed hundreds of miles and then implanted into someone else's womb, then surely the anti-abortionists were right? Life does begin at conception. So, I agreed with two conflicting arguments. Life begins when a sperm hits an egg, but women should have the right to abortions. I appeared to believe that women should be allowed to kill.

    Well, I'd say that it's not what you apprear to believe, Ms. Sawyer. I'd say it's what you actually do believe. As you've articulated it yourself.

    Unlike Norma, I don't want to be the kind of person who changes her beliefs according to her circumstances: like people changing from Labour to Conservative as they become richer.

    Actually, Norma's circumstances changed after she changed her beliefs. Her beliefs changed while she was still working in an abortion clinic. After they changed, she left and the rest of her life had to be changed to fit her beliefs. I marvel that Ms. Sawyer didn't learn this while conversing with her. And if Ms. Sawyer changes her beliefs on abortion, it won't be due to a change in circumstances. It'll be due to having taken into consideration questions and information she'd never taken into consideration before. That's called "being open minded." Which I'd hate to think she'd balk at.

    And I don't want to tell other people - other women - what to do.

    Opposing abortion isn't telling other people what to do any more than opposing arson is telling other people what to do. It's standing with a society that says that certain acts are unacceptable because they hurt other people.

    But when you see women's abortion rights whittled away as they have been in the US, you can't help but get angry.

    Oh, can't you? A lot of us -- including a lot of women -- are delighted to see "whittling away" of "abortion rights". We find it hard to see anything that women don't want to do as a "right" to be protected and embraced.

    In the end, I have to agree that life begins at conception. So yes, abortion is ending that life. But perhaps the fact of life isn't what is important. It's whether that life has grown enough to take on human characteristics, to start becoming a person.

    Remember when she said "If I'm honest, it seemed that everyone - philosopher, politician, crank - just takes a stance and then justifies it."? This is exactly what she did. Ms. Sawyer desperately wanted to remain "prochoice" on abortion, and she hunted around for a way to be able to do so.

    How intellectually and morally honest is that, really?

    All in all, kudos for at least articulating so much. But to simply fall back onto, "I don't want to be a person who opposes abortion, so I've come up with a new way of making myself comfortable with endorsing the practice" is a cop out.

    Monday, April 09, 2007

    RIP Johnny Hart

    Johnny Hart, creator of the popular "B.C." and "The Wizard of Id" comic strips, has died. Rest in peace, my brother.

    Sunday, April 08, 2007

    Illegal anniversary: Abortion by unknown person

    On April 8, 1928, 26-year-old Mildred Jacobsen "took sick" at work. She died there before she could be taken to a hospital. On May 4, the coroner concluded that Mildred had died from complications of a criminal abortion, and recommended the identification and arrest of the person or persons responsible. Nobody was ever held accountable for Mildred's death.

    Wednesday, April 04, 2007

    Anniversary: Found dead after abortion

    Dear Lord,
    I sit here alone with my thoughts wondering if you will ever forgive me. Why do I continue to fail you? I'm failing you because I‘m turning away from the precious gift of having a child. A child. A breathing, living, beautiful life that I created but too selfish to accept from you. Will you still love me as a child of yours? Will I still love me after today?

    Haley‘s journal - Oct. 23, 2000

    On April 5, 2001, Donetta Robben's 22-year-old niece didn't show up for work. Her friend Rosa drove over to check on her, and her car wasn't there. Rosa called the girl's father, Edwin. Had she gone home to visit her family?

    Edwin later said he just knew that his daughter was dead. He called the Omaha police, and he called his daugther's landlord. They went to the apartment. They found her body.

    Though the coroner estimated that the young woman had been dead for several days, all official documents, and the young woman's tombstone, use the April 5th date. So will I.

    In telling her niece's story, Donetta decided to use the name ‘Haley Mason' rather than her niece's real name. In respect for the family's desire to grieve privately, I'm using the name Donetta uses: Haley Mason. Likewise, I use the psuedonoms Donetta uses for friends and family members.

    The official ruling was that Haley's death was an accidental overdose. Her family was stunned as the investigators spoke with them, revealing the discoveries made while looking into the young woman's death. Isolated words echoed in their minds: death, journals, death, pills, death, drinking, death, hurt, death, abortion... Abortion?


    The answers to how Haley went from happy-go-lucky college student to suicide statistic weren't in the official reports. They were found in Haley's journals, where she poured her heart out in the final months of her life.

    The story of how Haley died begins when she fell in love with Todd. She found out she was pregnant and told him. He wanted her to get an abortion

    Haley was a student at the University of Nebraska. She worked two jobs to meet her expenses. Unmarried, without much money, and with a disapproving boyfriend, Haley saw abortion as her only option. She made her appointment at the Bellevue, Nebraska practice of Dr. Leroy Carhart. It was late October of 2000.

    Haley wrote of Todd's attitude: "I must let him abandon me. He doesn't care about me. I know he's only agreed to pay for it to ease his own guilt."

    Haley found the abortion stressful: the wait, the sounds, the crude and uncaring behavior of the doctor. Haley'd been told to arrive at the clinic at 7:00 in the morning, but it was ten hours before she was finally on the table, ready for the abortion. Carhart walked into the room, clad in a dirty coat and glasses so smeared that Haley's friend, who had accompanied her, wondered how he could even see through the lenses.

    Haley, in her fog of medication, tried to make a joke. "Don't hurt me down there?" she said. "Be still and I won't," Carhart replied.

    While performing the vacuum abotion, Carhart spouted profanities. He told Haley and her friend that he was tired. He'd been speaking in California the day before, and had just flown into Omaha that morning.

    After the abortion, Haley felt violated, as if she'd been raped. She also experienced continued spotting into January. She'd not been given a follow-up appointment, and didn't know if the bleeding was normal or not. She didn't want to go to another doctor, because she'd have to tell him about the abortion, and that was just too painful to talk about. The bleeding was a constant reminder of the death of Haley's unborn baby.

    Haley told few people about the abortion: three close friends and two relatives. But she didn't tell them of her struggle to cope with the emotional pain. She kept telling herself that she'd done the best thing. But she started punishing herself, and pushed away anybody who tried to love her. She didn't feel that she deserved their love.

    Haley longed for a knight in shining armor to rescue her from the prison of her grief, but she no longer felt comfortable with men. She had to get drunk to be able to endure sex. And even then, it reminded her of the abortion. Todd came by at early hours, looking for sex. Haley submitted, but her heart wasn't in it. She no longer felt loved. She felt used.

    The drinking got worse. Hot baths and quick jogs provided temporary relief from the anguish, but it always returned.

    Finally, Haley could stand it no more.

    First, plenty of numbing alcohol. Then, she went into her living room and grabbed a precious photo of her late mother and maternal grandfather. Next, a bottle of vodka. A bottle of aspirin. An old prescription bottle of Benadryl. Haley washed the drugs down with the vodka, leaving the three bottles next to the photograph.

    She went into the bedroom. She put her rosary around her neck. She set an empty holy water bottle on her dresser. She opened her journal to the day of the abortion. She lay down, head on her pillow, looking for the rest she couldn't find any more in living.

    Leaving her family to sort out their own pain.

    Anniversary: Doctor implicated in criminal abortion death

    On the morning of April 5, 1927, Arhne Reynolds died at the office of Dr. Louis Ginsburg from an abortion performed on her there that day. Ginsburg was arrested on April 18, and indicted for felony murder on May 15.

    Paging Captain Obvious

    Study: Women Having Abortions More Likely to Be Abused by Their Partner

    Women who had abortions in their teens or early 20s were more likely to have been abused by a partner than those who carried the pregnancy to term, they found.

    .... "'Women experiencing violence and abuse can be subject to coercive sex and unprotected intercourse, leading to a higher rate of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies."

    Angela Taft and Lyndsey Watson led the study and Taft said that young women appear to have less control over sex or contraception decisions when they're with an abusive partner.

    "'You could say that young women don't feel they have the right to say no," she said.

    I'd say that anecdotally, this is well known among American abortion practitioners. I listened to a tape of a National Abortion Federation meeting in which abortion nurses vented that many of their patients are unable to abstain from sex after their abortions because their "partners" refuse to let them say no. These women's partners also refuse to wear condoms, have sex with numerous other women, and are physically abusive. What struck me about the whole thing is that never once did the idea of referring these women to battered women's shelters get mentioned. Never once was the idea that these women deserved better than to be treated that way get mentioned.

    "What can society do about this problem?" Dr. Taft asks. "The take home message is that if we want to reduce the rate of abortion and unwanted pregnancy in Australia, especially among teenagers, we need to reduce violence against women."

    One thing that we can do is address whatever it is that's destroying women's (and girls') self-image to the point where they feel like they're better off abused than alone.

    But to not have somebody you're having sex with is viewed as so abnormal in our society. You're treated like a freak. So if your self image is weak to begin with, where are you going to get the inner strength to buck the "I need a man in my life or I'm nobody" mentality?

    "Also healthcare providers and pregnancy counseling services should ask women seeking [abortions] about their experiences of partner abuse and if necessary, refer them to supportive agencies," she added.

    Like if she tells you she can't abstain from sex after her abortion becaues her "boyfriend" won't let her. There's a word for not letting a woman say "No" to unwanted sex. It's rape.

    Anniversary: One of two deaths by doctor later slain

    Mary Bradley, a 41-year-old mother of four, underwent a 20-week abortion performed Dr. Wayne Patterson in March of 1985. Because of severe bleeding, she was admitted to a hospital and had a total hysterectomy on March 28. Mary developed blood clotting and respiratory difficulties, and finally died on April 4, 1985.

    According to official documents, another Alabama woman, Janyth Caldwell, died after an abortion performed by a doctor identified as George Wayne Patterson. The Alabama medical board lists no Dr. Wayne Patterson, only Dr. George Wayne Patterson, deceased, which leads me to believe that the same Dr. Patterson responsible for Mary's death had also caused the death of Janyth Caldwell the following year. If anybody can confirm or disprove this theory, please let me know. Dr. George Wayne Patterson himself also suffered an early death at somebody else's hands. He was gunned down outside a pornography theater in an apparent gangland slaying. (The Feminist Majority Foundation, and Revolutionary Worker refer to the slain doctor as "Wayne Patterson", which is further evidence that he is the same doctor responsible for Mary Bradley's death. The fact that this organization laments the gangland shooting of an abortionist, while ignoring the fact that he himself had evidently killed two women, underscores where these organizations' priorities are.)

    Anniversary: Death after abortion by unlicensed physician

    Operating on a tip, police, accompanied by an ambulance, broke into a private home at 2753 Sexton Place, in the Pelham section of the Bronx, on April 4, 1954. There they found Gertrude Pinsky, age 35, dead from septic poisoning from an illegal abortion. Police arrested Florence Cavalluzzo, a resident of the home, and Hugo Francese, an unlicensed physician. Later arrested were Jack M. Werner, owner of Werner Surgical Supplies, and Ignatius Cavalluzzo, Florence Cavalluzzo's son.

    Dr. Samuel E. Witt was charged with referring women to the abortion ring, evidently run by Dr. Herbert S. Wolfe. Four doctors were charged with referring women and receiving a $30 kickback for each referral: Joseph F. Pacelli, Abraham Cohen, Kalman Molnar, and Poon Lim. Francese and Florence Cavalluzzo were convicted of first-degree manslaughter in Gertrude's death. A police detective, found at the home at the time of the raid, was acquitted.

    Tuesday, April 03, 2007

    Anniversary: Death after abortion by midwife

    On April 3, 1928, 30-year-old Stafania Kwit died from complications of a criminal abortion performed that day by midwife Pauline Majerczyk.

    On May 3, Mauerczyk was held by the coroner for murder by abortion. Mauerczyk was indicted for felony murder on May 15.