Thursday, March 08, 2012

Six Anniversaries

Twenty-two-year-old Mary A. Bellville died Friday, March 8, 1889, from complications of an attempted abortion. A week before her death, Miss Bellville made a deathbed statement that Arthur B. Roosa had helped her to abort another pregnancy the previous June, "furnishing the instrument and instructing her in its use". Roosa, Miss Bellville said, was the father of both aborted children. He had not helped her with the second, fatal abortion. News coverage attempted to quell rumors that any local physicians, or any party other than Miss Bellville herself, "had any part in this criminal act."

On March 8, 1920, 33-year-old Christine Hetland died at Chicago's Swedish Covenant Hospital, from an abortion believed to have been perpetrated by Dr. John M. Klinck. He and a man named Carl Blomgren were held by the coroner but both cases were stricken off.

Ozella Ann Skains (pictured), a 24-year-old telephone operator from Dallas, Texas, was found dead on a street in Oak Park, Illinois, on March 8, 1954. Her family sued Ozella's finace, Dr. John C. Gobischel, a 26-year-old chiropractor, and his friend, George J. Malek. They were both also arraigned for murder by attempted abortion. Gobischel had become engaged to marry Ozella when he'd been stationed near Dallas. Her family hadn't even known she'd gone to Chicago until they got the call telling them of her death.

New York's "liberalized" and enlightened law brought us two deaths on March 8, 1972. "Colleen" took advantage of the new law and traveled from Michigan to New York for a safe and legal abortion. She was 21 years old and 20 weeks pregnant. Colleen had a history of asthma. During the abortion, she went into respiratory arrest and lingered until her death. "Connie," a 31-year-old who had gone into cardiac arrest during her safe and legal New York abortion on March 3, also died, leaving behind one child.

On March 4, 1975, Robert Sherman performed a safe and legal abortion on 16-year-old Rita McDowell. When Rita was discharged, her mother was informed that she would probably expel the fetus that night. Her mother called Sherman's facility on March 5 to seek care for her daughter, who was feverish and had not expelled the fetus. She said that Sherman would not speak to her, and that the receptionist told her to bring Rita in two days later. In the early morning hours of March 7, Rita awoke screaming, then collapsed in her mother's arms. Doctors at the hospital where Rita was taken removed the fetus, but she died just after midnight on March 8. An investigation into Rita's death revealed evidence that Sherman deliberately performed incomplete abortions so that he could charge more for follow-up care. Sherman was charged with murder in Rita's death, and prosecutors presented witnesses and evidence that Sherman re-used disposable medical equipment, failed to perform tests to verify pregnancy, failed to do pathology examinations of abortion tissues, allowed a nurse's aide to perform surgery, and falsified medical records.

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