Friday, November 02, 2007

Hiding the bodies in plain sight

Legend has it that the Centers for Disease Control keep track of abortion deaths. The case of Latachie Veal should lay that legend to rest. Latachie was 17 years old, and 22 weeks pregnant, when Robert Dale Crist performed an abortion on her at Houston's West Loop Clinic November 2, 1991.

According to Latachie's family, she bled heavily at the clinic, and cried out to the staff for help. They told her that her symptoms were normal, and sent her home. Several hours later, Latachie stopped breathing. Her brother-in-law called 911 while her sister did CPR, to no avail. Latachie was dead on arrival at Ben Taub Hospital.

If Latachie's death certificate had been filled out properly, with the notation of the abortion in the proper box, using the proper ICD-9 code, then theoretically the National Center for Health Statistics would spot the abortion code and report it. But most states send only a statistical sample of their death certificate data to the NCHS. So the CDC would be notified of Latachie's death through the NCHS only if the death certificate was properly filled out, and if Latachie's death certificate was among those abstracted and sent to the NCHS.

But still, according to abortion defenders, Latachie's death would nevertheless be automatically reported to the Centers for Disease Control. They're not clear on who is supposed to report the death. Was West Loop Clinic supposed to report it? Was Crist supposed to report it? Was Ben Taub Hospital supposed to report it? Was the medical examiner supposed to report it? Was the Texas Department of Health supposed to report it? The CDC says it gets abortion death information from abortionists, abortion facilities, hospitals, and state health departments, but it does not mention that the reporting is not mandatory.

This does not mean that Latachie's death went utterly unnoticed.

Latachie's family filed suit, retaining the flamboyant "Racehorse" Haynes as their attorney. The case was highly publicized, both in Texas and in Missouri, where Crist had performed a fatal abortion on Diane Boyd, a 19-year-old developmentally disabled woman who had been raped in the institution where she'd lived.

The mainstream publicity went beyond the usual newspaper articles, with Crist giving television interviews calling the publicity "media hype" and "a political event." Haynes retorted, "I wish he would have a copy of the 911 tape.... If he would talk to the parents, if he would talk to the sister as she gave her CPR or talk to the brother-in-law as she was breathing her last breath and see then if he thinks it's a media event."

With all this mainstream publicity in two states, prolife organizations picked up the story, and it was reported in prolife newsletters around the nation. A lot of people very quickly found out about the abortion death of 17-year-old Latachie Veal. But did the CDC?

At the 1992 National Abortion Federation Risk Management Seminar in Dallas, Crist spoke openly of Latachie's death. (He did not, of course, mention her name; I've concluded that he's discussing Latachie's death, since there's been no evidence of any another 17-year-old abortion patient of his who died in 1991.) Present at that Risk Management Seminar, where Crist chattered about Latachie's death, were two -- count 'em -- two -- staffers from the Centers for Disease Control's abortion surveillance activities area: Stanley Henshaw and Lisa Koonin.

Henshaw's presence isn't quite as remarkable as Koonin's. It was Lisa Koonin, specifically, whose job it was to "verify" abortion deaths, and obtain copies of death certificates. These she was to pass on to a research fellow, Clarice Green, who would then gather the full information about the case.

In spite of all the publicity, in spite of the lawsuit, in spite of the prolifers shouting from the rooftops, in spite of the abortionist discussing the death at an event attended by the very woman whose job it was to notice abortion deaths, the Centers for Disease Control did not notice Latachie's death. Their 1991 Abortion Surveillance Report, published in May of 1995, did not even make any mention of abortion mortality. And when we at Life Dynamics filed a request for information about abortion deaths, we found that the CDC counted zero -- count 'em -- zero -- abortion deaths among women of Latachie's race in the 15 - 19 age range. In other words, they didn't even notice.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but if the CDC failed to notice this highly-publicized death, discussed openly at an event attended by two of their abortion surveillance staffers, exactly what does it take to get them to notice an abortion death? And how can we even pretend to believe that any serious attempt to accurately count abortion deaths was being made?


Anonymous said...

This doesn't surprise me. They've consistently lied about the number of women who have been killed by abortion. Starting with lying how many died
b/c of illegal abortions b4 roevwade and culminating in covering up/obfuscating/playing down all the ones that have occured since. Why is it so hard for people to see the truth behind all the lies?!?

Christina Dunigan said...

To be fair, the CDC isn't the ones who lied about the illegal abortion deaths. They just pretend they're counting the legal deaths now.

Anonymous said...

just pretending is pretty much the same as lying. They know they aren't getting it right but as long as they make it look like they do then they can't be held's lying by omission...

Christina Dunigan said...

Oh, they're lying. But only about the legal abortion deaths. And about the impact legalization had on deaths, since though they don't lie about the illegal abortion mortality numbers, they are very selective in which ones they share and how they share them.

We need to be careful to give credit where credit is due, because every bit of honesty is a bit of truth, and thus a bit of Jesus. We need to recognize that Light wherever it is shining, however faintly. Jesus does have a small foothold in the CDC, and I'd say focus on that and pray that it grows.