Tuesday, May 06, 2008

An illegal abortion, or really bad fact-checking?

Patricia Miller's The Worst of TImes

describes the death of a woman that NOW's site tells as the story of Vivian Campbell:
Vivian Campbell
December 12, 1925 - May 6, 1950
Vivian Campbell was the mother of two children ages five and three. She was newly separated from her husband when she realized she was pregnant. Sending her children to stay with her parents, she sought and obtained an illegal abortion. She sent for her husband, but by the time he arrived at the hospital it was too late. She died in agony of peritonitis.

In Miller's book, the chapter "Gloria" has a woman telling of her mother's death. The following facts match:
  • The woman's name was Vivian
  • She had two children, the older of which was almost six years old
  • She was separated from her husband
  • She died in May of 1950
  • The children were taken to live with their maternal grandparents prior to their mother's fatal hospitalization
  • She was hospitalized
  • While hospitalized, she died of peritonitis
  • Neither story has any details whatsoever of how the abortion was performed, or by whom, or even who was suspected or what police investigation took place.

There are some differences:
  • NOW has Vivian dying at age 24; Gloria said her mother was 27
  • NOW said that the estranged husband arrived at the hospital "too late," and gave the impression that Vivian was already dead; Gloria said that her father brought Vivian to the hospital, but it was too late to save her. (This may just be muddling rather than skewed facts.)

Gloria indicated that she learned "the truth" of how her mother died when she needed a copy of the death certificate years later. The death certificate said "spontaneous abortion". Gloria clearly doesn't understand that this means a miscarriage; she took this as proof that her mother had obtained some sort of illegal abortion. So Gloria's mother may have miscarried, or the death certificate could have been sanitized.

Did this poor woman devote her entire life to promoting legal abortion based on not understanding a word on a death certificate, the way Becky Bell's parents have been devoting their lives to promoting secret abortions for underage girls because they misunderstood a word on the cover page of an autopsy report?

But NOW's researchers certainly should have known that a "spontaneous abortion" is a miscarriage, and would have nothing to do with any sort of "back alley abortion".

This is another case I will have to investigate. Gloria said her family lived in Dusquesne, Pennsylvania at the time of her mother's death. I might have a difficult time tracking down an obituary to see if the Vivian in Gloria's story is Vivian Campbell.

Does anybody know? This obituary of retired Pittsburgh Police Commander Gwendolyn J. "Gwen" Elliott says that Gwen's mother was Vivian Campbell and died of a "botched abortion" when Gwen was 5, which means that Gwen was probably "Gloria" in Miller's book. Since it's an obituary, there was no fact-checker. And please notice -- NOW and Patricia Miller give no sources for their tales of abortion deaths. Every death in my Cemetery of Choice has sources listed. And every death I blog about, I link to my main article that contains my cite. Let's give a few random examples:

  • Mary Pena: coroner's report Case No. 84-16016, Press-Telegram July 14-22 1985; LA County Coroner Case No. 84-16016; "Abortion held safe, but not for these 2 women," Press-Telegram, July 14-22 1985
  • Kelly Morse: Defend Life, Aug.-Sept., 1998; Dauphin County (PA) Court of Common Pleas, Civil Action # 6070 S96
  • Denise Montoya: Harris County District Court Case No. 89-16747
  • Gloria Aponte: Associated Press 11/22/89
  • Mary Bradley: Alabama Death Certificate #85-10613; Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, Autopsy Report # 27(A)-85-31536; Circuit Court for Monroe County, Alabama Case # CV-85-54

    Compare that to the NOW site, which simply asserts the stories as true -- including Becky Bell's story, which we know to be a lie from just reading her autopsy report. Which is more credible?

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

    To email this post to a friend, use the icon below.
  • No comments: