Thursday, February 07, 2008

Anniversary: Back alley butchery? Or safe and legal vital reproductive health care services?

Safe and legal? Or back-alley butchery? The case of 19-year-old Nancy Ward certainly sits on the cusp.

In November of 1967, Nancy, a student at the University of Oklahoma, told her boyfriend that she was pregnant and wanted an abortion. The boyfriend contacted his father in Kansas City, Missouri for help. On January 30, 1968, the boyfriend's father contacted Dr. Richard Mucie at his ear, nose, and throat clinic in Kansas City and made arrangements for the abortion. On February 7, Nancy and her boyfriend flew from Oklahoma to Kansas City and visited Mucie at clinic. Mucie examined Nancy and told the couple that he would contact them at their hotel.

At 11 p.m., Mucie called and arranged to pick them up and drive them to his clinic. He took Nancy back for the back room while the boyfriend waited in the outer office. About 20 to 30 minutes later, Mucie returned to the front office and asked the boyfriend for money before starting the procedure. Evidence indicates that Mucie then performed a D&C abortion on Nancy.

During the abortion, Mucie made a 1/2 inch tear in Nany's uterus. She went into shock and died at the clinic at about 9 a.m. February 8, in spite of Mucie's attempts to resucitate her. At about 11:30 a.m., Nancy's body was taken to Osteopathic hosptal. An autopsy revealed parts of a 4 1/2 to five month fetus still in Nancy's uterus. She had bled to death.

Mucie was convicted on June 8, 1968, of performing an abortion "not necessary to preserve the life" of the mother. Illegal abortion at that time carried a penalty of 3-5 years, with the sentence to be increased in cases where the mother died. Mucie served 14 months then was released on parole. Parole was set to expire on July 27, 1977. His medical license was revoked on May 4, 1971. After Roe v. Wade overturned Missouri's abortion law, Mucie successfully appealed his conviction and got his license restored under a ruling that made Roe retroactive in Missouri. He was released from propation and his record expunged of the manslaughter-abortion convicted. Ironically, Nancy's fatal abortion was retroactively declared legal on the grounds that the state's "interest in materal health" did not allow Missouri to have prohibited Mucie from performing it.

So, at the time Mucie performed it, Nancy's abortion was one of those horrible back-alley abortions that no woman should have to endure, much less die from. But after Roe, it was retroactively declared safe and legal, and thus transforms Nancy's death to something the abortion lobby can dismiss with a flippant, "All surgery has risks!"

Did Nancy's death become more acceptable and less tragic after it was retroactively relegated to the realm of safe and legal abortions?

And lest Mucie's specialty being ENT and not Ob/Gyn stick in your craw, keep in mind that this is not unusual at all for abortion specialists. Scroll down here to Robin's story. Her abortion at a National Abortion Federation member clinic was performed by Don Jaffe, who was, like Richard Mucie, an ear, nose, and throat man. And Lawson Akpulonu, whose seedy abortion mill Diane Sawyer dismissed as "a non-story", was a podiatrist.

For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

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