Wednesday, June 18, 2008

1973: Erstwhile back-alley butcher kills patient in safe, legal abortion

On June 18, 1973, 28-year-old Linda Padfield dies of massive infection in a South Dakota hospital. She had undergone a safe and legal abortion on June 15 at the newly decriminalized abortion facility of Dr. Benjamin Munson.

A pathologist found the remains of a five-month fetus in Linda's uterus, missing a leg, arm, part of its skull and part of its torso. The retained fetus caused the massive infection that had killed Linda. Munson was charged with manslaughter in Linda's death. He sued to enjoin prosecution, but the case went to court nevertheless.

The prosecution focused on the fact that infection will inevitably result from that much retained tissue. The Attorney General commented, "You take a three-inch leg off something, you have to know that there's more in there than just the leg."

The defense, however, argued that infection is an accepted risk of abortion, and that the state couldn't prove that Munson meant to harm Linda. The jury bought it, and Munson was aquitted. He later became a member of the National Abortion Federation (NAF). In 1985, he sent a teenage patient, Yvonne Mesteth, home with retained tissue. She, like Linda Padfield, died of infection. Again Munson was prosecuted for manslaughter, and again he beat the rap.

Munson is the third former criminal abortionist I've learned of who had a clean record -- no patient deaths -- as a "back alley butcher", only to go on to kill two patients in his legal practice. The others are Milan Vuitch (Georgianna English and Wilma Harris) and Jesse Ketchum (Margaret Smith and Carole Schaner).

For more abortion deaths, visit the Cemetery of Choice:

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