Tuesday, August 31, 2010

1910: Doc blamed but not named

On August 31, 1910, Mrs. Ellen Shirah, age 34, died in Augustano Hospital in Chicago from an abortion that had been performed the previous day at her home.

The coroner's jury determined that a doctor had been responsible, but did not identify who.

Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good. For more information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The disaffiliated PP affiliate

New York Times: Planned Parenthood Golden Gate’s “meltdown”:

Katharine Mieszkowski’s 3rd Bay Citizen installment investigating the demise of Planned Parenthood Golden Gate (read about previous 2 here and here) hit the big time August 28 when the New York Times picked it up

In short, PPGG was hemorrhaging money, so PPFA cut them loose.

1. Yay!

2. How can an organization with so much access to tax $$$ go broke? What were the doing with the money -- using it for toilet paper? ("[T]ax filings show that the nonprofit lost $2.8 million during the 2008-9 tax year, at the same time its chief executive’s total compensation exceeded $340,000." That might explain some of it.)

3. Notice that killing patients or performing an abortion on a patient who was just there for a pelvic exam* won't get you disaffiliated, but losing money will.

*The May 24, 1993 issue of Legal Times notes that Alcida A., age 28, alleged that she went to Planned Parenthood February 25, 1992, for birth control pills. Alcida, who speaks only Spanish, was led to procedure room by Spanish-speaking employee who had her disrobe, put her in stirrups, inserted a speculum, and left the room. Planned Parenthood physician Marc Jerome entered room and initiated a vacuum abortion procedure. Alcida screamed for him to stop, Jerome "ignored the obvious pain and terror" of the woman, and continued with procedure. It turns out that Jerome had gone into wrong room and failed to correctly identify which patient he was about to operate on. Alcida's lawyer noted that she "suffers continuous flashbacks and crying episodes," particularly due to her strong religious opposition to abortion. Planned Parenthood successfully blocked Alcida's attempt to file suit anonymously, on the grounds that the suit "does not involve an abortion, or a woman's right to privacy when choosing to obtain an abortion. The female plaintiff in this case was not pregnant...did not seek and did not obtain an abortion." I'd note that she obtained one, against her will. What if this woman had been pregnant and there for a prenatal exam?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

All a-Twitter: "Red states" Google abortion more. Why?

Jill Stanek posts her Weekend Question: Why is “abortion” googled more in pro-life states?

Abortion supporters postulate that it's because abortion facilities are harder to locate in these states. How would that explain it? Doesn't EVERYBODY who is scheduling an abortion looking up the phone number? If you were googling abortion just to make an appointment, you'd google it once and be done with it, and you'd be googling whether or not there was a handy abortionist in town. When I was looking for a clothes drying rack, I googled clothes drying racks for days, comparing reviews, then drove down to Lowe's and bought one. I didn't have to do all that googling because clothes drying racks were difficult to avail myself of, but because I was planning a purchase and doing my research. And any reasonably bright internet-using woman contemplating abortion is going to do the same thing -- google "abortion" and shop around -- unless she's a frequent flier and they know her by sight down at the mill.

I'd say there are two underlying causes of the higher "abortion" googles in "red states" --

1. Prolifers tend to do more research. (You can see this in any number of studies showing that more knowledge of abortion tends to correlate with a prolife stand, and great confidence in one's misinformation about abortion tends to correlate with a prochoice stand).

2. When abortion laws and regulations are proposed, it puts abortion into the news and sparks curiosity, so people google it to find out which side is telling the truth.

No huge mystery.

The more laws we propose, the more regulations, the more we keep abortion in the news, the more people will become curiuos and start googling. And the more prolife they'll become.

Read it and weep, abortion lovers!

1987: Diane Watson

Diane Watson was 27 years old when she went to Hedd Surgi-Center in Chicago for an abortion on August 29, 1987. Although Diane was over 12 weeks pregnant, Rudolph Moragne proceeded with the abortion, in violation of state regulations.

Diane had seizures and went into cardiac arrest at the clinic. Moragne and the other physicians present -- Henry Pimentel, Ester Pimentel, and Calvin Williams -- failed to perform CPR.

Diane's autopsy report attributed her death to "seizures due to anesthesia during an abortion," and made note of the recent pregnancy. Diane's death certificate, however, not only makes no mention of the abortion, but also has the "no" box checked for whether or not the decedent had been pregnant during the previous three months, thus preventing her death from coming to the attention of public health officials.

Diane's family filed suit. A doctor reviewing the case said that Moragne and Hedd staff "deviated from the accepted standards of care [and] failed to appropriately and timely diagnose and treat intraoperative complications which resulted in her death."

Two illegal anniversaries

On August 29, 1925, Katarzyna Tobiasz, age 31 or 32, died at Chicago's St. Mary's Hospital from an abortion performed on her there that day. A woman whose name is spelled once as Barbara Kolur and elsewhere as Barbara Kar was held by the coroner on August 31 for Katarzyna's death. Kolur/Kar's profession is given as nurse or midwife. On July 5, 1927, she was indicted by a grand jury for felony murder in Katarzyna's death.

In 1927, fifteen-year-old Florence Kruse became pregnant as a result of statutory rape by Corwyn Lynch. Somebody arranged for an abortion, which was performed on August 29. Florence died that day. Dr. James Aldrich was arrested on murder by abortion charges that day for the girl's death. However, the coroner's jury was unable to confirm that Aldrich had performed the abortion, and he was released. Florence's father, Louis C. Kruse, was booked as an accessory. However, on September 17, both men were cleared by the coroner, and on September 19 they were released. The coroner did, however, recommend that Corwyn Lynch be charged with murder. There is no record that Lynch was charged.

How common was it before legalization for somebody with medical training, or even a physician, to be involved in an abortion?
It was rare. Most abortions were performed without any sort of medical oversight at all.
It was seen fairly frequently. About 20% of abortions had a doctor or nurse involved in some role.
It happened about half the time.
It was the rule, rather than the exception. Almost all illegal abortions were performed by doctors, and many of the rest by nurses, midwives, or other people with medical training.

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

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

1926: Fatal abortion by perpetrator, profession unknown

On August 28, 1926, 44-year-old Margaret Muscia died from a criminal abortion performed that day in Chicago. Mrs. Minnie Miller, alias Molinaro, was arrested on July 10 for Margaret's death. Minnie's profession is not given. On November 15, she was indicted for felony murder by a grand jury.

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

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1943: Nurse tries to blame abortion death on ingrown toenail

Naomi Congdon, age 21, was the wife of Donald Congdon, a sailor from Denver, stationed in Norman, Oklahoma. She died in an Oklahoma hospital on August 28, 1943.

The string of events that led to her death begaon on July 27, 1943, when Dr. Andrew Young examined Naomi and noted that she was pregnant, and also that she had an ingrown toenail that was infected. The infection, he said, was "minor".

Naomi told her husband that she wanted to "do something" about the pregnancy. She even admitted to him that she had ingested turpentine to try to cause an abortion, but had vomited it back up. Donald objected to the idea of an abortion.

On August 16, Donald found a note from his wife, telling him that she was at the home of Mrs. Lena Griffin Smith, a 63-year-old maternity nurse in Oklahoma City. Donald went there and found his wife in great pain. He contacted doctors at the naval base, who instructed him to have Naomi brought to the base hospital. Donald called an ambulance and rode with his wife to the hospital.

After Naomi was hospitalized, Smith called Donald and asked if she was going to face further questioning. Donald said he didn't think so, since Naomi hadn't died from the abortion.

Police raided Smith's practice at her residence, finding one woman in bed recuperating from an abortion, and another just arriving for "treatment" she had already paid for. Smith confessed that she had been operating an abortion business for about 15 years. She had an accomplice, Mrs. Pearl Green, who was also a nurse. Smith herself had attended medical school for two years.

On August 19, a Navy doctor examined Naomi and found she had a fever of 103 from an infection that appeared to have started in her uterus. He administered sulfa drugs and blood transfusions. But despite the efforts of the Navy doctors, Naomi died of septicemia on August 28.

Smith was charged with first-degree manslaughter. Her defense claimed that Naomi had already been feverish when she'd come for care, and that the fatal infection had originated in the ingrown toenail. Dr. R. S. Love testified that at the autopsy he conducted he could not determine absolutely if the septicemia had come from the foot infection or an abortion, but in cross-examination the prosecution wondered how a woman in otherwise good health could have died on August 28 from an ingrown toenail that had been observed as a "minor" infection a month earlier. The defense also noted that Naomi's landlady had found turpentine, ergot, and douche powders in Naomi's room, indicating that Naomi herself had initiated the abortion and thus allowed the toenail infection to take hold and become fatal. However, Donald noted in his testimony that on August 15, the day prior to the visit to Smith, Naomi had been in apparent good health and had even gone on a trip to Turner Falls for the day with some friends.

The jury found Smith guilty, and recommended a 10-year sentence.

Smith also faced manslaughter charges regarding the death of an infant born in an Oklahoma City hospital after Smith had attempted to perform an abortion on the child's mother.

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

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Friday, August 27, 2010

1909: Doc implicated in abortion death

On August 27, 1909, Anna Dennin, age 23, died in Chicago from an abortion. Dr. E. Mayeke held by the coroner's jury and indicted for felony murder. The source document doesn't indicate that the case went to trial.

Anna's abortion was typical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was evidently performed by a physician.

Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good. For more about abortion and abortion deaths in the first years of the 20th century, see Abortion Deaths 1900-1909.

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

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

How times have changed.

A striking contrast to modern attitude toward abortion deaths is the story of Alice Bowlsby -- the Trunk Murder Victim, whose pitiful corpse was found 139 years ago today.

In contrast to most criminal abortion deaths, where I was lucky if I could find a name and an approximate date of death, I found an embarrassment of riches when researching Alice's death, including pictures of Alice, the abortionist, and the discovery of her body. Evidently Alice was the Natalee Holloway of her day -- the pretty, young, white, blonde, blue-eyed crime victim whose story was the relentless lead in every media outlet. Her death roused such outrage that abortion laws were toughened all over the country -- including, ironically, a change in New York law that the abortionist's attorney cleverly used to get his conviction overturned on a technicality, freeing him one year into his seven-year sentence.

With our propensity for naming legislation after the victim whose tragic tale prompted their passage, most of the abortion laws that were struck down by Roe vs. Wade could be called "Alice's Law". And by striking them down, the Supreme Court abolished not only Alice's Laws, but any public outrage over abortion butchery. Only prolifers are outraged anymore. The Guardians of Women's Lives no longer jeer at the abortionist who kills his patient. They no longer demand his head on a pike and cry out in solidarity with his victim. They ignore the dead woman and rally to the defense of the man who killed her.

How times have changed!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Historic abortion death

On August 20, 1880, Miss M.A.M. Faulkner, a white woman formerly of Ottawa, Canada, died at the office of Dr. Thomas J. Cream during the commission of an illegal abortion. Cream, a white physician, and Mrs. Mackey, a Black nurse, were arrested in the death.

I have no information on overall maternal mortality, or abortion mortality, in the 19th century. I imagine it can't be too much different from maternal and abortion mortality at the very beginning of the 20th Century.

Note, please, that with ordinary public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good.

For more on this era, see Abortion Deaths in the 19th Century.

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

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The man who developed heart surgery was on the payroll as a janitor

This is not one of those "[very loosely] based on a true story" movies like "Braveheart". This really freaking happened.

Anybody who has ever benefitted from heart surgery -- their own or a loved one's -- owes a debt of gratitude to an obscure Black Southern carpenter with the unlikely name Vivien, on the payroll of Johns Hopkins as a janitor. This is a staggering story.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Treasured collectibles? Nope. Mummified fetuses.

75-year-old mystery: 2 fetuses wrapped in 1930s California newspapers found in doctor bags

As Yiming Xing peeled back the tattered Los Angeles Times papers from a small bundle, hoping to discover well-preserved antiques beneath the 1930s newsprint, she instead found the remains of two human fetuses.

Some folks are acting as if preserved fetuses is just some relic of the "bad old days", but I remember plenty of stories of safe-in-legal abortionists stockpiling fetuses, not just keeping two almost as if they were keepsakes. The most recent one was Kermit Gosnell in Philly.

Does anybody have the details on the storage room full of containers of fetuses they found in Los Angeles a while back?

Today's anniversaries - Three different scenarios, all equally dead

1908: Abortionist acquitted: Bertha Isserstadt, age 23, died in Chicago from compliations of an abortion performed August 5. A woman named Margaret Wiedman was held by the coroner, but eventually acquitted for reasons not given in the source document. Wiedman's profession was given as "abortion provider".

1937: Fatal self-induced abortion: Mrs. Ruth Haught, a 30-year-old widow, died at University Hospital in Hobart, Oklahoma, on August 19, 1937, of blood poisoning from an apparent self-induced abortion.

1988: Safe, legal abortion kills asthmatic teen: Tami Suematsu, age 19, underwent a safe and legal abortion performed by Vern Wagner at Riverside Family Planning Center August 19, 1988. Tami went into bronchial spasm and asthma-related respiratory failure then cardiac arrest. She was transported to a hospital, but died shortly after arrival.

For more abortion deaths, visit the Cemetery of Choice:

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

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

1901: Abortion death pinned on lady doc

Mrs. George W. Robinson, age 28, died at her Chicago home on August 18, 1901, from an abortion performed there that day. Dr. Muenster was arrested that day, and she was held by the Coroner's Jury. Mrs. Robinson's abortion was typical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good. For more about abortion and abortion deaths in the first years of the 20th century, see Abortion Deaths 1900-1909.

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

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Today's anniversaries

1978: Abortion at clinic owned by erstwhile criminal abortionist proves fatal: Marina DeChapell, age 34, went to a Miami abortion facility for a safe and legal six to eight week abortion on August 17, 1978. Immediately after the procedure, the abortionist noticed that Marina was not breathing. Although the medical examiner did not attribute Marina's death directly to the abortion, police noted that the clinic, owned by erstwhile criminal abortionist Luis Barquet, was not equipped with any emergency equipment other than an air bag.

1971: Safe and lethal: Vicki was 23 years old when she underwent an abortion in New York state. She was 20 weeks pregnant. Saline was injected into her uterus to begin the abortion. The next day, she began to show signs of infection. She expelled her dead fetus but her condition did not improve. On August 17, she died of sepsis.

For more abortion deaths, visit the Cemetery of Choice:

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Today's anniversaries

1989: Prestigious women's hospital lets teen die in botched abortion: Marla Anne Cardamone wanted to make an adoption plan, since she already had a toddler at home, was helping her mother care for her quadriplegic father, and was coping with depression. Instead of helping Marla, a hospital social worker browbeat her into the unwanted abortion that took her life.

1974: Chicago woman dead within hours of abortion: Dorothy K. Brown was one of three women to die at Friendship Medical Center in Chicago -- a facility originally founded as a good work for the Black community by Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Mason Howard.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Today's anniversaries

Yvonne Tanner put her trust in a safe, legal abortion hospital, and lost her life. Kris Humphry lost her life trusting her friends and their advice on "natural" ways to get rid of an unwanted unborn baby.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

1982: Mom dies, kids left in the lurch

Angel Dardie, age 22, left two children motherless when she died on August 3, 1982, of disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (a clotting disorder) after a safe, legal saline abortion performed by Youl Choi at Plymouth General Hospital.

Angel's mother sued, saying that the abortion was performed negligently. Although she sued for $5 million, she was awarded a settlement of $6000 from Choi and $2500 from the hospital. $1744 of this went to the attorney, plus an additional $667 given to him from the settlement for his expenses. $1528 of the settlement was ordered to be used to reimburse for funeral expenses. This left Angel's mother and orphans with $4561. No settlement was awarded for pain and suffering, nor was there any settlement for Angel's surviving children.

For more abortion deaths, visit the Cemetery of Choice:

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Last year's abortion death declared homicide

Ying Chen, 30 years of age, died a year ago today from complications suffered during an abortionist performed by troubled doctor Andrew Rutland. The LA County Coroner, on reviewing the case, changed the manner of death from "Accidental" to "Homicide". The Medical Board has added this charge to their list of charges against him. The case will be reviewed in February of 2011.

How did this all begin?

On July 28, 2009, Ying, who did not speak English, went to Rutland's acupuncture and abortion facility in San Gabriel, California, for a safe, legal abortion. She arrived at about 11 a.m. A Chinese translator was present at the facility, though medical board documents do not indicate if Rutland provided the translator or if Ying brought the translator.

Ying was 16 or 17 weeks pregnant by examination -- well into the second trimester. Rutland didn't document when Ying's last period was, nor did he document her height and weight. He didn't include an ultrasound report in her chart. Her chart did, however, include two signed consent forms -- for a first-trimester abortion.

Because of how advanced Ying's pregnancy was, Rutland was going to insert laminaria, which are sticks of dried seaweed, in Ying's cervix to dilate it for the procedure, which Rutland planned to perform about six hours later, when the laminaria had sufficiently dilated the cervix. Ying asked for pain medication for this procedure.

Rutland injected Ying with Demerol, which he was not authorized the dispense in an unauthorized setting. He had brought the drug from his Anaheim office. Rutland didn't document the administration of Demerol in Ying's chart.

He positioned Ying for the laminaria insertion procedure, and injected her cervix with four injections of lidocaine, which he had also brought from his Anaheim office. Within minutes of the injection, Rutland told the board, Ying's arms and legs contracted, but she was alert and responsive, with good blood pressure. Rutland started an IV.

About ten minutes later, Ying was having some trouble speaking and breathing. Rutland told an acupuncturist who worked at the same office to call 911. Ying went into complete cardio-respiratory arrest. Clinic staff reportedly performed CPR, but when paramedics arrived, they reported that nobody was providing her with care. The medics took Ying to the hospital, where she died six days later of lidocaine toxicity.

In his statement to the medical board, Rutland said that he wasn't aware that the clinic even had a crash cart, which was kept at the back of the facility. The crash cart in question was stocked with expired medications. Rutland didn't use his own crash cart, which he'd brought from his Anaheim clinic, because he'd left it in his car.

Nobody at the facility was certified in CPR.

The California medical board found that Rutland has been operating in a facility that wasn't adequate equipped for emergencies, which "casts doubt on his professional judgment." The clinic, which Rutland owned, lacked an appropriate municipal license. Rutland didn't carry malpractice insurance, and had lied to the DEA about his medical license having been previously suspended. The board also found that Rutland "administered Lidocaine without knowing the safe dosage range or maximum safe dose" and that his "response to the medical crisis was inappropriate in that he failed to recognize Lidocaine toxicity in a timely manner, did not give the patient an oxygen mask, and delayed in calling the paramedics." They also noted that Rutland failed to report both Ying's hospitalization and her death to the medical board, as required by law.

Dr. Rultand acknowledged that the incident was terribly unfortunate, but asserted that everything he did was within the standard of care. Dr. Rutland denied operating a medical clinic on the premises, despite a sign on the door that said "Rutland MD Medical Clinic." Dr. Rutland denied owning the medical clinic where the incident occurred. Dr. Rutland argued that the nature of the procedures he performed did not require him to have malpractice insurance and did not require that the clinic be equipped for serious emergencies. Dr. Rutland claimed he administered, not dispensed the Demerol, and that doing so was not in violation of DEA regulations.

Although Administrative Judge James Ahler said that Rutland "presents a risk of danger and there is a likelihood of injury to the public" if he were allowed to continue to practice, the medical board failed to revoke or even suspend his license. Instead, in their January 7 hearing, they just banned him from performing any more abortions, performing other surgeries, or delivering any more babies. They will decide at another time whether or not to take further action.

California Deputy Attorney General Douglas Lee said that in his care of Ying Chen, Rutland "committed repeated negligent acts", and said that he had a history of dishonesty and corruption, including lying to patients and to authorities.

Rutland argued that banning him from performing abortions was uncalled for on the grounds that he wasn't actively performing an abortion on Ying when she suffered the fatal mistake. His lawyer, Peter Osinoff, asked the judge to give weight to the 100 abortions Rutland had performed without incident over a two year period.

This was not Rutland's first run-in with the medical board. He had surrendered his license in October of 2002 after allegations of negligence, misconduct, and incompetence in his treatment of pregnant women, gynecological patients, and newborns. Two babies died, one in January of 1997 and one in July of 1999. The board investigated reports that Rutland performed unnecessary hysterectomies, lied to patients, and had sex with patients in his office.

One of the infants who died, Jillian Broussard, suffered spinal cord injuries while Rutland was using forceps to deliver her. She lived six days. Her death ultimately led the medical board to revoke Rutland's license in 2003. Jillian's parents, who were present at the recent medical board hearing, lamented the reinstatement of Rutland's license in 2007, and the board's failure to revoke his license in the wake of Ying Chen's death.

"I think his victims and the public needed to get full peace of mind today, and they didn't," Kathy Broussard told the Orange County Register. "He still has a practice in Anaheim. He's still allowed to do gynecological exams and consultations. It's appalling." Scott Broussard told the paper, “There’s the making of a mistake, but then there’s the way that it was made and the reaction by him afterward. He was not a man of honor or integrity… The responsibility for this death is on the medical board, to be shared with Dr. Rutland. They’re supposed to protect the public and they have failed.”

Prolifers in California had been complaining since early March of 2009 to the Medical board about Rutland, who was running an abortion clinic in southern California without another physician supervising him, in violation of his board probation. This facility was at the same location as the illegal abortion mill operated by Bertha Bugarin, who had been convicted of performing unlicensed abortions there. Rutland was also reported by prolifers to be operating at another abortion facility in Chula Vista.

Rutland, on the other hand, is complaining in open letters to everybody from state senators to Oprah that he is being persecuted because he's an abortionist. Let's see if Orpah takes the bait.


  • Medical Board Pursues Case Against Practitioner in Botched Abortion Death
  • Homicide added to complaint against abortion doc
  • Judge: Doctor Who Killed Woman in Botched Abortion Must Stop Doing Them
  • “This woman's death could have been avoided”
  • Medical board documents (perform search for Andrew Rutland, click on resulting links)
  • Doctor's license in jeopardy after death of abortion patient in San Gabriel
  • Abortion doc banned from doing abortions after death of patient, retains license to practice medicine
  • California abortionist accused of gross negligence in woman’s death
  • Sunday, August 01, 2010

    1991: Perforation and death

    Documents regarding the death of Ingrid L. Thomas, age 28, indicate that her uterus was perforated by Kanu Virani during an abortion. Ingrid developed acute peritonitis, and died at Botsford General Hospital Augist 1, 1991, several days after the abortion.

    1929: Death blamed on abortionist's wife

    On August 1, 1929, 23-year-old schoolteacher Violet Morse, , of Anaconda, Montana, died from a botched abortion. Her death certificate was signed by Gertrude Pitkanen (pictured), who was listed as the attending doctor even though Pitkanen was actually a surgical nurse and a chiropractor. Pitkanen attributed Violet's death to myocarditis, a heart condition.

    Violet's father requested a coroner's inquest, which revealed that Violet had actually died of complications of an induced abortion. Pitkanen insisted that she had only been called to Violet's bedside after her death. With no way to verify that Pitkanen had performed the abortion, she was simple censured for failing to notify proper officials about the death, as well as for falsifying the death certificate.

    Pitkanen, born in 1878 in Lincoln, Nebraska, completed her nurse's training at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. She moved to Butte in 1907, and was one of the first surgical nurses at St. James Community Hospital, assisting her husband, Dr. Gustavus Pitkanen. Dr. Pitkanen was an abortionist until he was jailed for sedition in 1917, whereupon his wife took up the curette.

    Pitkanen was also charged with the abortion deaths of Hilja Johnson and Margie Fraser. A woman who was a student nurse at St. James Hospital in Butte remembered Pitkanen's victims. "They died horrible deaths from infection," she told a reporter from the Montana Standard.

    Violet's abortion was unusual in that it was likely performed by a nurse, rather than by a doctor, as was the case with perhaps 90% of criminal abortions.

    Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1920s.