Wednesday, August 31, 2011

1910: Unnamed doctor's patient perishes

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. (See "Kitchen Table Surgery" for more about the context of at-home abortions.) The coroner's jury determined that a doctor had been responsible, but did not identify who.

Note, please, that with general 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.

external image Illegals.png

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

Monday, August 29, 2011

Four more anniversaries

On August 29, 1918, 23-year-old Mabel Johnston died at Chicago's Cook County Hospital from an abortion perpetrated by Dr. Nathan Smedley and Dr. Anna Warren. Both were arrested and arraigned but the case never went to trial.

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.

Diane Watson was 27 years old when she went to Hedd Surgi-Center in Chicago for a safe and legal abortion on August 29, 1987. Although Diane was over 12 weeks pregnant, Rudolph Moragne proceeded with the abortion, in violation of state regulations prohibiting outpatient abortions after 12 weeks. Diane had seizures and went into cardiac arrest at the clinic. Moragne and the other three physicians present 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 has the "no" box checked for whether or not the decedent had been pregnant during the previous three months. 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." Another abortion patient, Magnolia Reed Thomas, bled to death when Moragne failed to diagnose her ectopic pregnancy when she came to him at Hedd for a safe, legal abortion.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Two criminal anniversaries

I have scant information on the first of today's abortion anniversaries. 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. The source does not indicate what became of the case.

Other sources, however, tell me a great deal about the 1943 death of 21-year-old Naomi Congdon. Naomi was the wife of Donald Congdon, a sailor from Denver, stationed in Norman, Oklahoma. On July 27, 1943, 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. But 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, Mrs. 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.

Mrs. 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.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rare anniversary: Safe, legal abortionist prosecuted for patient death

The 1980 death of 26-year-old Betty Jane Zellers Damato stands out among safe, legal abortion deaths in that the doctor responsible actually was held accountable.

According to Betty's family, Dr. James Franklin did not remove all of the fetus during the August 23 abortion he performed. He instead gave Betty a trash bag, and instructions to collect whatever she expelled in the bag and bring it to him.

Two days later, Betty was dead from infection.

Franklin told a grand jury that he did not perform the fatal abortion. He claimed that he had examined Betty, found a dead fetus, and sent her to the hospital. A jury convicted him of manslaughter in Betty's death on October 19, 1981, and he was sentenced to prison for three years.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Four more tragic anniversaries

Today's anniversaries run the gamut. To learn more about any of these women, click on her name.

The first and most mysterious is the death of the 15-year-old wife of Frank Lafavor. As is typical of the coverage of the day, this young woman is not identified by her own given name. Mrs. Lafavor, news coverage said, was "the victim of ... inhuman outrage." She had married over the objections of her family in March of 1870. A severe and unrelenting illness led two doctors who came to her aid to ask her if she had undergone an abortion. She admitted that she had taken some sort of abortifacient, eventually crying out, "Tommy gave it to me!" The newspaper noted that "Everything possible was done to restore her, but after suffering intensely for a whole week and died on Tuesday morning last [August 23] at about eight o'clock."

Mrs. Anna May Klanenberg, age 24, died at St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago from complications of an illegal abortion on August 23, 1906. Physician J. W. Mitchell was held by the coroner's jury, and indicted, but the source document doesn't indicate that there was ever a trial.

On August 23, 1910, Mrs. Louise Heinrich died in the New York apartment of Mrs. Vivian Buffam, under the care of Dr. Andre L. Stapler. Stapler cleared the case with Dr. O'Hanlon at the coroner's office, filling out a death certificate indicating that Louise had died from gastritis. Four years later, the Coroner's Office came under investigation concerning allegations that doctors there were taking bribes to cover up abortion cases. Louise's body was exhumed, an autopsy performed, and the real cause of death -- a criminal abortion -- was uncovered.

Finally, we turn to the tragedy of 25-year-old Dorothy Muzorewa, a recent immigrant from Zimbabwe. Her husband came home late in the morning of August 23, 1974, to find the apartment covered in blood and his wife hemorrhaging. She was pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby hospital. Only after her death did Dorothy's husband learn that she had been pregnant, and had gone to Women's Aid Clinic for a safe and legal abortion on June 15.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Four anniversaries

Today's deaths are a confirmed illegal abortion by an unknown perpetrator, an unconfirmed illegal abortion, a pre-Roe legal abortion, and a post-Roe suicide.

On August 22, 1929, 34-year-old
Marjorie Johnson died in her home from complications of a criminal abortion performed that day. The guilty party was never identified or apprehended.

According to the National Organization for Women web site, Pauline Roberson Shirley was a 29-year-old married mother of six. She and the children, according to NOW, were living with her mother in Arizona while her husband was looking for work in California. NOW gives no details of the illegal abortion that Pauline underwent, but says that she was hospitalized for hemorrhage afterward and bled to death on August 22, 1940. I'd welcome any verifying information on Mrs. Shirley's death. After all, NOW also claims that Becky Bell died from complications of an illegal abortion, when in fact she died of pneumonia concurrent with a miscarriage. (There was no evidence that Becky's pregnancy had been tampered with in any way.) NOW doesn't indicate if Pauline's abortion was performed by an amateur or non-physician, which would be unusual, or if it was done by a doctor, as was the case with perhaps 90% of criminal abortions.

"April" is one of the women Life Dynamics identifies on their "Blackmun Wall" as having been killed by a safe and legal abortion. April was 17 years old when she underwent a saline abortion in New York City on August 20, 1971. The next day she was admitted to the hospital. She was in shock, with a high fever. She was treated there until her death on August 22.

Carol Cunningham was 21 years old when she underwent an abortion in the late summer of 1986. On August 22, she shut herself up in her garage at her home in Albuquerque, and started her car. She died from breathing the exhaust fumes. Her body was discovered on August 25, 1986.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Two illegal deaths, one verified, one questionable

According to the National Organization for Women web site, Ruth Irene Friedl was a married, 27-year-old mother of two. NOW's site said that pregnancy was life-threatening for Ruth, but they don't specify why, nor do they say why, if her life was in danger, she was denied a legal abortion. NOW says that Ruth drank ergot apiol, an herbal abortifacient, on August 21, 1929. That night, according to NOW, Ruth collapsed at the dinner table in front of her husband and children, and died on the spot.

I'd welcome any verifying information on Mrs. Friedl's death. After all, NOW also claims that Becky Bell died from complications of an illegal abortion, when in fact she died of pneumonia concurrent with a miscarriage. (There was no evidence that Becky's pregnancy had been tampered with in any way.) But if people who think abortion is a good idea want to blame Ruth's death on abortion, I'll let them claim her as somebody their ideology killed. If NOW's story is true, Ruth's abortion was unusual in that it was self-induced rather than performed by a doctor, as was the case with perhaps 90% of criminal abortions.

A coroner, and a murder investigation and trial, make it clear that on
August 21, 1923, 32-year-old Catherine Stange died in Denver of septicemia due to an abortion blamed on Dr. Daniel R. Lucy. This was quite the scandal, since in addition to being a doctor, Lucy was a city councilman. His high position also meant that he was given warning of his pending arrest for second degree murder, to give him time to arrange bail. Lucy's only comment to the press after being told of the charge against him was to note that he was not surprised, that this was what he had expected from the coroner's jury. He was later acquitted of the charges, for reasons that the source does not explain.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Three illegal anniversaries

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.

On August 20, 1913, 20-year-old Emma Witte died in Chicago from an abortion perpetrated that day by Dr. Otis M. Walter. Walter was indicted by a Grand Jury that day, but the case never went to trial.

On August 20, 1918, 28-year-old Alma Heidenway died at 329 South Ashland Avenue in Chicago from an abortion evidently performed that day by Dr. J. A. Stough. Stough, along with Fred Cordray and Alice J. Kennedy, were held by the Coroner on September 5. Eunice Magill was 'brought back from Forest Park." Stough and Cordray were acquitted on May 29, 1919, for reasons not given in the source. The others never went to trial for Alma's death.

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.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Six anniversaries

On August 19, 1908, 23-year-old Bertha Isserstadt 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". Bertha's abortion was atypical in that it was not performed by a physician.

Elise Stone went to the practice of Dr. A. H. Yates on August 15, 1917, for a "criminal operation." Elise remained there for three or four days before being sent home, where she died. On her death certificate, her death was attributed to "congestive chill." But concerned citizens complained to the County Attorney, A.G. Nichols. Nichols ordered an autopsy and thus the real cause of her death was discovered.

On August 19, 1917, 31-year-old Mrs. Anna Lindquist died at Chicago's County Hospital from a criminal abortion perpetrated that day by nurse/midwife Katherine Schmidt. Schmidt was tried in Anna's death but acquitted on February 28, 1918.

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.

"Dawn" was 29 years old and 7 weeks pregnant when she underwent a legal suction abortion under local anesthesia in August of 1972. After the abortion, Dawn went into convulsions.
Doctors at the abortion hospital, and at another hospital, attempted to resuscitate Dawn, to no avail. Doctors believed that Dawn might have been given an overdose of local anesthetic. Strangely, during the autopsy, the medical examiner found a significant amount of blood in Dawn's abdominal cavity, but no evidence of a uterine perforation.

Documents regarding Tami Suematsu, age 19, alleged that she underwent a safe and legal abortion 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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Two safe, legal anniversaries

"Vicki" is one of the women Life Dynamics identifies on their "Blackmun Wall" as having been killed by a safe and legal abortion. 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.

Marina DeChapell, age 34, went to the Miami abortion facility at 620 SW 1st Street for a safe and legal six to eight week abortion on August 17, 1978. Eduardo F. Elias administered Valium and Xylocaine for the abortion. Immediately after the procedure, Elias noticed that Marina was not breathing. He initiated CPR and an emergency team was summoned. The ambulance crew found Marina with no signs of life. Although the medical examiner did not attribute Marina's death directly to the abortion, police noted that the clinic, owned by Luis Barquet, was not equipped with any emergency equipment other than an air bag.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Five anniversaries

Today's anniversaries cover quite a time span. Click on each woman's name to read the details.

Margaretta Velth died on August 16, 1876, from peritonitis caused by an abortion. Coverage of the story focuses on determining the cause of death and the people involved.

On August 16, 1899,
Mrs. Antonie Vacicek died in her home from complications of an illegal abortion performed there that day. Very little additional information was available.

Cheryl Vosseler
, age 17, died August 16, 1969 from complications of a safe, legal abortion performed at Fresno General Hospital.

Dorothy K. Brown, age 37, died August 16, 1974, just hours after a safe and legal abortion at Friendship Medical Clinic in Chicago. Julia Rogers and Evelyn Dudley also died after abortions at Friendship Medical Center.

Marla Anne Cardamone (pictured), age 18, died August 16, 1989 at Magee Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Marla had been browbeaten into the unwanted abortion by a hospital social worker, who told her (falsely) that the medication she had been taking had left her baby severely disabled. Marla was injured during administration of an antiquated abortion method, then left virtually unattended to die.

The Long Dying of Baby Andrew

The Long Dying of Baby Andrew

Evidently I am the only person who picked up this book and was utterly unable to finish reading it because I found the mother's attitude, not the doctors' treatment of Andrew, too painful to deal with. And, in the comments section of Nebraska "Forced to Watch Baby Die" story looks fishy , I have been soundly lambasted for my lack of compassion for Andrew's mom:
Jonathan Stinson said...

GrannyGrump. You missed the entire point of Long Dying of Baby Andrew. I guess you should have finished it. What you didn't know is that the baby was declared brain dead and the pro-life hospital decided that they could not remove the breathing tube. After the tube was finally removed, the hospital charged my parents hundreds of thousands of dollars for the cost of keeping the boy alive, when there was no change of survival. Don't be so cynical and assume that a parent is selfish just because of a traumatic event such as this one. There is a reason this book was required reading at medical schools around the country, including Harvard.


Sammi said...

Granny Grump...I, too, read "The Long Dying of Baby Andrew" (and finished it) and I do not recall seeing the word "abortion" ONCE in that book. The authors went through a Hellish experience, one that cannot be explained away by superstitious nitwits like yourself who declare that this baby must have "picked up on how much his mother hated him and just died." You clearly missed the multiple journal entries on her pumping breast milk for a vegetative fetus in hopes it would help him make it, the agony they endured in trying to get ANY information from doctors (as this was before patient and parental privilege rights) and the destruction that a selfish malevolent religious fanatic hospital placed on their marriage, finances, and lives. Shame on you.

I did that rarest of things and actually threw the book away because I couldn't stomach it. I was never able to even finish reading it. As I said in a comment:

[The author] wanted a baby, but ONLY a HEALTHY one that would fit in with her plans. When she suffered some sort of complication at about 25 weeks, she demanded an immediate abortion on the grounds that she had not PLANNED for pregnancy complications and refused outright to cope with them. The doctors instead tried to save the baby. She bitched the whole time about how they were ruining her plans.

When she went into labor and the baby was born prematurely, she started demanding that they just let the baby die. They instead brought the baby to the NICU, where at every step the mother did everything in her power to demand that the baby be just left to die already. The baby eventually did die, I'm guessing from the title, but I couldn't read the whole thing because I was so filled with hatred for and rage against that selfish woman who was constantly harping about how she didn't WANT a baby in the NICU, how she'd asked for a DEAD baby and how totally pissed off she was at people for refusing every step of the way to just kill the wretched thing and be done with it.

I image that at some point the baby picked up on how much his mother hated him and just died.

So, did I read an entirely different book that had been maliciously created to slander Andrew's mom? Or did any of you, reading this book, see what I saw?

I'm wondering if the doctors, as horrified as I was by the reactions of the parents, overreacted and went into overdrive and got caught up in a power struggle with the parents. But like I said, I found the parents so ghoulish that I couldn't force myself to read any further, so I never found out if the doctors became ghoulish in the opposite direction.

Or are we seeing confirmation bias? I had picked up the book wanting to get the perspective of a parent who had a tragic NICU outcome, since everybody I knew, though the experience was difficult, came home with a live and beloved baby. I had wondered if the parents' perspectives on whether the doctors were heroes or ghouls depended on the outcome for the child. But I got the feeling early on that any treatment of Andrew -- anything that deviated from the script his parents had prepared months earlier -- was going to be treated as a horror.

Again, anybody?

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Ballistic Bully

Warning: Extreme foul language:

1. Clearly this guy's problem wasn't that his kid might see the picture. If his concern had been about the kid seeing the picture, he would have just driven by. The kid probably wouldn't have ever seen it. But this guy made a point of dragging his kid out of the car and shoving him right up into the picture. There was ZERO concern about his child being traumatized. In fact, he himself made a point of traumatizing his child as much as possible. That kid was extremely upset by his father's behavior, and really didn't seem to even care about the picture, just about his father screaming and ranting and frightening him. It looks as if the man was deliberately terrorizing his own child in order to punish the prolifers for being there.

2. The prolifers handled the situation admirably. They did nothing to escalate the situation. They remained calm and non-confrontational. They didn't try to reason with somebody who clearly was beyond the reach of reason. They kept documenting what was happening.

3. Clearly it strikes a nerve with people when you show them the reality of what abortion is. If they didn't at heart know that it was wrong, they'd not be upset. Opponents of PETA, after all, don't leap out of their cars and scream obscenities at PETA people. We roll our eyes and return to munching our hamburgers.

4. I suppose it's a good sign, then, that the guy at least has enough of a conscience to hurt that badly when reminded of what abortion is. It means he's not dead inside.

5. How does exacting revenge on the prolifers by terrorizing a child -- his own child -- in front of them help the situation?

1909: Doctor and his wife held in teen's abortion death

On August 15, 1909, Lillian Swing, age 15, died in Chicago from an abortion performed on August 9. Dr. Hamilton Shaver and his wife were held by the coroner's jury. The source document doesn't indicate that the case went to trial.

Note, please, that with general 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.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Two deaths, legal and illegal

Yvonne Tanner, a 22-year-old mother of a young daughter, had a safe and legal abortion performed by Stephen Pine and/or Morton Barke July 10, 1984 at Inglewood Women's Hospital. Yvonne went into a coma immediately after the abortion, and died August 14, 1984. Her death certificate indicates coma, hypertension, and urinary tract infection. The suit by her survivors alleged that Yvonne was not adequately advised of the risks prior to undergoing the fatal abortion. The other women who met their deaths at Inglewood include Kathy Murphy, Lynette Wallace, Elizabeth Tsuji, Cora Lewis, and Belinda Byrd.

Kris Humphrey placed a high value on "self-determination" and doing things "naturally." These values led her to choose the herbal abortion that ended her life on August 14, 1994. Kris consulted a friend who recommended an abortion technique from
Wise Woman Herbal, by Susun Weed. The method relied on a tea of pennyroyal extract and black cohosh root, both readily available in health-food stores. On August 5, Kris started the abortion regimen, but she failed to seek medical help when she developed symptoms of pain and cramping, even after the abortion should have been complete. She kept dosing herself with more pennyroyal tea, even after her friends and mother had offered to pay for an abortion at Planned Parenthood. Kris's condition deteriorated, but still she refused care. Her friends finally called 911 when Kris stopped breathing. She was resuscitated and put on life support, but all efforts to save her failed. She was removed from life support and declared dead late on Saturday afternoon, August 14. Her liver showed signs of pennyroyal toxicity. Kris's friends blamed the university health clinic for not performing an ultrasound before referring Kris to Planned Parenthood, while her parents blamed the herbal store that sold the pennyroyal. Nobody, it seems, is blaming the culture that makes abortion normative and assures young women that it's perfectly safe.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Four anniversaries

Three of today's anniversaries each have a fairly lengthy story. I'll summarize the women's stories here. Click on each woman's name to learn more.

Ann Regan, "the daughter of a respectable widow" in Knightstown, Indiana, took ill on August 10, 1858. Her condition deteriorated over the next few days. On August 13, she went into a severe convulsion and died. The next day an autopsy determined that somebody had used instruments to perform an abortion on Ann, resulting in her death. Interestingly enough, news coverage of her death focused on heaping scorn and loathing on the man behind the entire tragedy. For more on this era, see Abortion Deaths in the 19th Century.

On August 13, 1922, 21-year-old Beulah Pickerill died at Chicago's Mid West Hospital from complications of a criminal abortion performed there that day. Two physicians, Vincent Filletti and Michale Galgano, were held by the coroner and indicted for felony murder.

Donna Heim, age 20, went to Her Medical Clinic on August 12, 1986, accompanied by her sister. Donna told staff that she had asthma, and she noted this on her forms when she filled them out. Despite this pre-existing condition, a nurse anesthetist administered general anesthesia for her safe and legal abortion. Donna reacted to the anesthesia and stopped breathing. Staff lied to Donna's sister even as Donna was being hauled to the ambulance. Donna died the next day without regaining consciousness.

Allegra Roseberry, age 41, had been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. She was admitted to Emory Hospital for assessment in anticipation of admission to an experimental cancer treatment program. There, a sonogram during surgery revealed a 23-week pregnancy, much to everyone's surprise since Allegra had undergone fertility drug treatment in order to conceive her son Matthew 20 years earlier. Her doctors lied to her, both about her own treatment options and about the health of her unborn baby, convincing her to submit to an abortion that killed her.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Life Report #126: How Do You Respond to “Impossible” Pro-Choicers?

#126: How Do You Respond to “Impossible” Pro-Choicers?

Josh puts for consideration how to respond to a prochoice person putting out the following list of conditions under which he/she would convert to prolife:

1. All women would have to be able to prevent unwanted pregnancies. (She specifies this as perfect contraception.)
2. No woman becomes pregnant through a non-consensual sexual act.
3. No women would die as a result of being denied an abortion. (Can't die from self-terminating)
4. The fetus could feel pain from conception.
5. There is an alternative to pregnancy, i.e. a way to get the target embryo/fetus moved to a safe location.

Becca Haschke took an excellent approach. Her starting point would be to ask the person if she would be willing to see some, rather than all, abortions banned because in those circumstances are met.

I'll move on from there. Would this person be okay with banning those abortions that met these criteria:

1. The pregnancy had not resulted from a birth control failure.
2. The sexual act had been consensual.
3. The woman was pointed to resources that would cause her to change her mind about wanting an abortion.
4. The fetus had developed to a gestational age at which a fetus would respond to a painful stimulus in a way that we would interpret as evidence of pain in a newborn.
5. The fetus could be delivered prematurely and still survive.

Would she be okay with banning abortion in those pregnancies in which those criteria were met, or would all pregnancies have to meet those criteria before she'd be willing to see any limits on abortion?

We could point out that this would allow a ban on those abortions after 24 weeks performed on women who had not been using any form of birth control during a consensual sex act, instead offering the woman the choice of simply continuing to birth or delivering the baby alive and allowing it to be taken to the NICU. If the prochoicer was agreeing to that, we could start discussing nuances, things like, "How would you determine that the pregnancy was not as a result of birth control failure?"

That discussion would, I think, be very fruitful.

Somebody (I think it was Becca but I don't remember) also put forth an approach that asked the prochoicer, "What if I could show you another reason that was so important that it trumped all of those?"

Josh, I think, also leaned toward, "What if I could show you that any of these reasons was not actually relevant to deciding whether or not to permit abortion?"

Both of these offer opportunities to go into interesting areas of discussion. You could start with each of the points and ask, "How is this relevant? Could there be other factors that would trump this?"

Another approach would be to discuss each point and ask what the underlying concern is. For example, starting with fetal pain, one could ask, "Is it pain that's really the issue for you? Because if it is, wouldn't it be okay to kill a born person as long as you do it in a way that doesn't cause pain? You could slip the person a powerful drug that would make her painlessly lapse into a coma and then stop breathing. Would it be okay to kill a born person that way?" The discussion could then lead into whether or not abortions must be done in a way that causes the fetus no pain, and so on.

My experience has been that usually if one pillar of "Why I'm Pro Choice" falls, the rest are weakened and eventually crumble. The person comes to see that your age, or how much distress your presence might cause somebody, simply aren't relevant to whether or not you're a valuable member of the community whose life should be protected.

Pre-Roe Abortion Fatal for Co-ed

Sara Franki Lint, a 22-year-old coed, submitted to a safe and legal abortion at San Vicente Hospital in Los Angeles, California, on August 11, 1970. Adolpho Zlotolow, who operated San Vicente (an abortion facility) said that Sara went into ventricular fibrillation soon after the abortion was initiated by either Albert Kapstrom or Milton Gotlib.

The technique being used on Sara, hysterotomy, was one with a known high maternal mortality rate. San Vicente staff treated Sara for an hour before transferring her to Midway Hospital down the street, where she died at 4:57am on August 12. The autopsy found yellow fluid in Sara's heart, frothy tan fluid in her lungs, and a seven-inch male fetus in Sara's uterus.

San Vicente was where Oriane Shevin, Natalie Meyers, Joyce Ortenzio, Laniece Dorsey, and Mary Pena underwent their fatal abortions. It was bought out by Family Planning Associates Medical Group.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Two criminal deaths, one vigorously prosecuted

Miss Mary Park, a 24-year-old schoolteacher of Greenley, Colorado, died August 9, 1917. Four years later, Dr. Nicholas J. Phelan was tried of murder in her death from illegal abortion, but he was acquitted by reason of insanity and sent to a mental hospital. The next year, Mary's body was exhumed, and Dr. E.L. Willis of Denver was subsequently tried and convicted in her death. He had been party to the abortion, performed at the Colonia Hotel in Denver. Willis was sentenced to 10 - 15 years in prison for Mary's death. It would be better for women, I think, if we had retained this persistence in finding and bringing to justice those quacks who kill women in abortions, rather than just shrugging them off the way we do in our enlightened days.

On August 9, 1927,
Irene Campbell died in the Chicago office of Dr. Herman Webber from an abortion performed there that day. Webber was arrested on August 9, and on September 1 he was indicted for felony murder. Irene's abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician. Sadly, Chicago was not as diligent as Denver in prosecuting criminal abortionists. More research is needed into why this was the case, and how many women paid with their lives for this lack of diligence.

During the first two thirds of the 20th Century, while abortion was still illegal, there was a massive drop in maternal mortality, including mortality from abortion. Most researches attribute this plunge to improvements in public health and hygiene, the development of blood transfusion techniques, and the introduction of antibiotics. Learn more here.

external image MaternalMortality.gif

Monday, August 08, 2011

1975: Antiquated abortion method claims another victim

On August 6, 1975, 29-year-old Cheryl Tubbs underwent a saline abortion at Pacific Glen Hospital in Los Angeles County. This was an antiquated technique, developed in Russia in the 1930s and abandoned in Japan, the Soviet Union, and Sweden due to the extreme risk to the mother. Nevertheless, American abortionists embraced it. After the safe, legal abortion, Cheryl bled heavily, so she was transferred to White Hospital on the evening of August 7.

Cheryl continued to bleed profusely, and twice went into cardiac arrest. Staff performed a paracentesis on her to remove blood and fluids from her abdomen. About an hour after midnight, staff could no longer detect any blood pressure. For an hour they tried heart massage, to no avail. Cheryl was pronounced dead at 2:30AM on August 8.

An autopsy revealed that Cheryl's uterus had ruptured during the abortion, spilling blood and uterine material into her abdomen. She had bled to death.

Two years later, Jackie Bailey also bled to death from a ruptured uterus caused by a saline abortion at Pacific Glen.

As you can see from the graph below, abortion deaths were falling dramatically before legalization. This steep fall had been in place for decades. To argue that legalization lowered abortion mortality simply isn't supported by the data.

external image Abortion+Deaths+Since+1960.jpg

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Three safe, legal deaths

Ruth Montero, age 23, underwent a safe and legal vacuum abortion of her 8-week pregnancy, under general anesthesia, August 1979, at Women's Care Center in Miami. Ruth awoke from anesthesia in the recovery room, and went into convulsions and cardiopulmonary arrest. She died from hemorrhage, and a prolapsed mitral valve, August 7. Ruth Montero, Myrta Baptiste, Maura Morales, and Shirley Payne all died in a clinic owned by Hipolito Barreiro, trained in Argentina and West Africa, but not licensed in U.S. Barreiro was accused of practicing without a license and tampering with witness. Yeah, legalizing abortion really cleared out all the bad characters.

Mary Ives was 28 when she had an abortion 19 weeks into her pregnancy. She was admitted to W.W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, Connecticut, for treatment of complications of the abortion, but her heart and lungs failed due to amniotic fluid embolism (amniotic fluid in her bloodstream). Mary was pronounced dead on August 7, 1983.

Teresa Smith is one of the women Life Dynamics notes on their "Blackmun Wall" of women killed by legalized abortion. Teresa was 31 years of age when she submitted to a D&C abortion. She went into cardio-respiratory arrest from a pulmonary embolism and was pronounced dead at a local hospital on August 7, 1988. Both Mary and Teresa died from foreseeable, but difficult to treat, complications, so it is entirely possible that their deaths, however sad, fall into the popular prochoice category of "All surgery has risks." However, if Teresa and Mary belong there, so do all the women who died of similar complications prior to legalization. If "all surgery has risks," then all surgery has risks even if the surgery in question is criminal abortion.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Today's two anniversaries

On August 6, 1920, 35-year-old Christina Anderson died at Chicago's County Hospital from a criminal abortion. Midwife Emelia Schaffer was arrested for murder, and a woman named Pearl Freese as an accessory. Schaffer was indicted on August 14, but the case never went to trial.

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.

In late July of 1988, 30-year-old Laura Sorrels underwent an abortion at a facility in Lancaster, California. Two weeks later, on August 6th, she was found dead in a motel room. Her one-year-old daughter was found in the room with her. Whoever had performed Laura's abortion had failed to notice that the embryo was not in her uterus, but was in her fallopian tube. The tube ruptured, and Laura died of blood loss and shock, her baby daughter by her side.

Even though, in theory, women who choose abortion should be less likely to die of ectopic pregnancy complications, experiences shows that they're actually //more// likely to die, due to sloppy practices by abortion practitioners.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Horror in Fullerton

Six California police officers placed on leave in homeless man's death

For the most part, I'm going to just direct you to the story. It's ghastly enough on its own. But I want to add a few comments.

The cops involved are on leave, and understandably their names are not being released. The FBI and the Orange County District Attorney are investigating, with OCDA putting more than two dozen officers on the case. Fullerton residents are up in arms, as they should be, with more than 100 of them expressing their outrage during a City Council meeting.

Here's something that just strikes me as a freakish reflection on our society:

The FBI is investigating whether Kelly Thomas' civil rights were violated during the incident, said Laura Eimiller, spokeswoman for the FBI's Los Angeles office.

A man is beaten to death, and there's a discussion of a civil rights violation? When they were fishing bodies out of the Green River, was there any discussion about, say, whether or not the killer might have bilked the dead prostitutes of money he owed them? Kelly Thomas had his life taken from him.

Susan Kang Schroeder, the spokesperson for the OCDA's office, looks like she's going to vomit as she's being interviewed. Whatever she saw was horrifying even to somebody accustomed to dealing with violent crime.

Here's something else scary: Schroeder said that the DA's office has already interviewed 80 people, and expects to interview 20 more. Were there a hundred witnesses to this? How many people saw this go down? I'm assuming that some of the people they spoke to would be those who knew Kelly Thomas and could speak to whether or not he had a history of violence, etc. Some are no doubt supervisors of the cops in question, people to ask about what sort of training the cops had, people at 911 dispatch, etc. But 100 is still a LOT of people. How many witnesses were there? How were the cops totally unafraid to do this with all those people standing around, especially in the age of ubiquitous video cameras?

I'm also wondering -- did anybody in the crowd call 911 and say that the cops there were totally out of control? If nothing else, we need to call 911 when we see cops misbehaving because then we have a recording of somebody describing what's going down in real time.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Life Report: The Fetus-as-Rapist

Abortion afficianado Eileen McDonagh justifies abortion by comparing the fetus to a rapist. The fetus, like the rapist, is in the woman's body when she doesn't want him there. Therefore, she has a right, says McDonagh, to do absolutely anything to fend off the fetal "rapist."

I've blogged this prior to the podcast. Now I'll progress through the podcast. offers Common ground Without Compromise as a free PDF.

Liz said she'd compare pregnancy to a rape if the fetus came at the woman with a knife. Josh pointed out that Mattie, their make-up artist, turns this around -- in abortion, we come at the fetus with a knife. Zing. She nailed it.

Josh had responded to an abortion supporter who was using McDonagh's "fetal rapist" argument by asking how the fetus was supposed to get permission to be there. (I've asked that myself. Ordinary the argument is fetus-as-trespasser, and I'd ask how the fetus was supposed to sign a lease, but in the case of comparing the fetus to a rapist, what does the woman want? For the fetus to take her to dinner, bring flowers and chocolates, and otherwise entice her to give her consent?)

Andrew was pointing out that the pregnant woman has taken it upon herself to risk pregnancy. He made perhaps a poor analogy to a rape situation in which the woman was, after a fashion, inviting the rape. Liz pointed out that even in a situation like Andrew described, the woman would have a right to repel the rapist.

I'd compare it more to a situation where a woman picked up a guy in a bar, went back to his apartment with him, made out and got naked in bed with him, and then at the moment of penetration screamed, "You didn't ask permission!" and shot him.

Liz pointed out the disproportionate response: Why take LETHAL force against the fetus, whose "rape" act is non-lethal?

She also pointed out that a fetus in the womb is where it's supposed to be. It's not doing something violent and unnatural. The uterus, by creation or evolution, the natural home of a fetus.

Josh put something really well: The fetus is the effect, not the cause, of pregnancy. The uterus has been gearing up for the new embryo. Her body is actively trying to get pregnant, even to the point of revamping the immune system to welcome the new, biologically different life.

Josh brought up the fact that when you consent to an activity, you need to take responsibility for the consequences as well. If you're playing baseball, and you hit the ball through the neighbor's window, you don't get away with saying, "Well, I consented to play baseball, but I didn't consent to your window breaking, so I'm not responsible for it. Fix your own window!" So, if you consent to sex, you have a responsibility for the resulting baby.

Josh said that when he put the baseball analogy up to the arguing person, she claimed that the use of birth control absolved her of responsibility. Josh pointed out that even if they'd been hitting balls in the opposite direction, and a foul ball popped up and smashed the window, you'd still be responsible, even though you'd taken precautions against breaking a window.

Liz zeroed in on the prochoice idea that you can beg off being responsible for foreseeable consequences of your actions. We don't buy that in any other situation.

Afterward they discussed my previous post. They addressed McDonagh's claim that the only way to defend against the fetus is to kill it. Not true. It will go away on its own as soon as it's able.

Two Illegal Deaths and a Murder/Suicide

On August 4, 1900, Mrs. Mary Borglun died in her home from complications of an abortion performed there that day. Mrs. Mary Kempfer was arrested that same day and held without bail by a Coroner's Jury. Kempfer's employment status was listed as nurse or midwife.

On August 4, 1913, 40-year-old Anna Turnovan died in Chicago at the scene of an abortion perpetrated that day by Dr. Frank L. Meuller. Mueller was arrested and held by the Coroner, as was Sima Mallasch. The case never went to trial.

On August 4, 2006, 30-year-old Laura Grunas, a police officer in Plantation, Florida, shot her boyfriend, 31-year-old Robert Peat, dead inside his home. Grunas then turned the gun on herself. Neighbors reported that Laura was hysterical the last day of her life, standing outside Peat's garage yelling, "Why is everyone blaming this on me? He killed my baby." In what those close to the pair believed to have been a mutual decision, Laura had aborted the couple's baby a few weeks earlier.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Legal? Yes. Safe? Not so much for these three women.

Today's deaths are all of the safe, legal kind.

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, but was awarded a meager settlement of $6000 from Choi and $2500 from the hospital, roughly half of which was eaten up by legal fees and funeral expenses.

Dawn Marie Mack had an abortion performed at National Abortion Federation member facility Eastern Women's Center August 2, 1991. She went into cardiorespiratory arrest. Her family's suit said that Eastern's staff failed to adequately respond, and cited many shortcomings in how the facility was run and staff were trained. Dawn was transported to a hospital by ambulance, where staff tried to resuscitate Dawn to no avail. She died August 3. Eastern Women's Center also provided fatal abortion care to Dawn Ravenelle and Venus Ortiz.

On July 28, 2009, 30-year-old Ying Chen, who did not speak English, went to Andrew Rutland's abortion facility in San Gabriel, California, for a safe, legal abortion. Rutland's records for Ying were paltry and inadequate. He administered medications that he was not authorized to dispense. She began to have a clear adverse reaction to the drugs, and Rutland asked an accupuncturist who shared his office to call 911. According to the paramedics who responded, nobody at the facility was providing any care to Ying when they arrived, although she was in cardiorespiratory arrest. Though there was a crash cart in the clinic -- albeit one with expired medications -- and another in Rutland's car, nobody at the clinic used either one to treat the dying patient. Rutland had been in previous trouble with the medical board, and was in violation of many of their stipulations when he provided the lethal care to Ying. For the sordid details, follow the link on Ying's name.

Together, these tragic stories make it difficult to believe the claims of prochoice activists that post-legalization deaths are all just ordinary risks of surgery.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

1981: Safe, legal abortion leaves three children motherless

Twenty-seven-year-old Robin Wells, mother of three children ages 6, 4, and 2, went for a safe and legal abortion under general anesthesia by Max Gaujean at Akron Center for Reproductive Health on July 15, 1981.

Robin went into cardiac arrest in the recovery room, and was transferred by ambulance to a hospital. She remained in a coma until her death on August 2, 1981.

Both Gaujean and the anesthesiologist were independent contractors and did not maintain private practices. The suit filed by Robin's survivors alleged that she was overdosed on anesthesia and not properly monitored. It also alleged that staff at Akron Center for Reproductive Health failed "to resuscitate her after her condition had been discovered." The case was settled out of court.

Monday, August 01, 2011

1929: Nurse Takes Over Jailed Husband's Abortion Business, Kills Patients

On August 1, 1929, 23-year-old schoolteacher Violet Morse, of Anaconda, Montana, died.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 then 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 Margie Fraser and Hilja Johnson. 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.

Of course, the response from champions of legal abortion will be to claim that legalization would have spared the lives of these women. I beg to differ, on the following grounds:

1. Maternal deaths, including deaths from abortions, were falling through the entire 20th Century due to improvements in public health and medical care. Legalization didn't even make a blip on the line. Thus, there is exactly zero evidence that legalization had any impact whatsoever on abortion mortality.
2. Legalization wouldn't make former "back alley butchers" stop plying their trade. To the contrary, I know of three who had clean records (no patient deaths) as criminal abortionists, who each went on to kill two patients through carelessness after legalization took away the fear of going to prison: Jesse Ketchum, Benjamin Munson, and Milan Vuitch.

3. Abortion lobbying groups have been pushing for nurses, midwives, and physician assistants to perform abortions legally. Thus, under the guidelines suggested by prochoice organizations,
Gertrude Pitkanen would be perfectly qualified to perform safe, legal abortions. Claiming that she was unqualified would mean that the abortion lobby is actually pushing for unsafe abortions now.

4. It's not exactly as if deaths like Violet's stopped happening after legalization. I have an entire page of post-legalization septic abortion deaths. None of these women died a pleasant death, and I don't think smirking that "all surgery has risks" is an adequate response. If "all surgery has risks" is valid grounds for brushing off a post-legalization death, it's valid grounds for brushing off a pre-legalization death. Why the double standard, abortion supporters?