Tuesday, September 23, 2008

1971: Saline abortion proves fatal for Michigan woman

On September 23, 1971, 35-year-old "Barbara" died in a New York hospital, leaving five children motherless. The autopsy could find no anatomical cause of death. All that was known for certain is that she had traveled from Michigan to New York for an abortion. She had been 20 weeks pregnant. Within 24 hours of being injected with saline for the abortion, she went into convulsions, then her heart stopped, and all efforts to save her life failed.

Why did Barbara travel to New York for her abortion?
All abortions were illegal prior to 1973. Barbara had correctly guessed that it would be easier to arrange an illegal abortion in a big city like New York than anyplace closer to home.
Abortions were illegal in Michigan, but legal in New York, so Barbara had traveled to where she could obtain her abortion legally and safely.
Though abortions were legal, Barbara's pregnancy was so far advanced that she had to seek out a specialist in late abortions. The nearest one was in New York.

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Anonymous said...

i think it's pathetic that the pathologist(s) found no anatomical cause if death.

Christina Dunigan said...

A friend of mine was found dead in his bed and nobody was ever able to find out why. The medical examiner told the family, "If he'd been 24 weeks old instead of 24 years old, I'd have called it crib death." Tox scans all negative, and not a thing wrong with him other than being dead.

Sometimes things just aren't clear.

Anonymous said...

I realise there could have been any number of reasons for Barbara's convulsions, heart attack and death. I can't help but speculate. A pregnant woman having gone through these symptoms, abortion or no abortion, it seems odd to not get any answers. However Barbara went through a high risk procedure, that has been all but been replaced with comparitively safer methods. One of the now known risks is hypernatraemia. I wonder if the cause of death could have been hypernatraemia, for example, (the convulsions would fit with this, but i really don't know.)

Cristella Forte died from convulsions and cardiac arrest. The cause of death in her case was found to have been hypernatraemia.

It just seems so strange not to find any answers at all after Barbara having gone through all her terrible symptoms caused by what is now known as a dangerous procedue.

I'm sorry about your friend, Christina.

Christina Dunigan said...

The symptoms are very much consistent with hypernatraemia -- for our non-medical lurkers, that's too much sodium in the bloodstream. It can be caused by many things, but in a saline abortion it's caused by the saline getting into the mother's blood stream.

Anonymous said...

Such a barbaric and idiotic procedure, what were they thinking. Glucose, saline, urea.