Friday, December 21, 2012

Two Deaths Each Before and After Legalization

On December 21, 1915, 34-year-old Mrs. Anna Hunt died at Chicago's Rhodes Avenue Hospital from complications of an abortion perpetrated that day by an unknown person.

On December 21, 1926, fifteen-year-old Emily Mueller died from complications of a criminal abortion perpetrated somewhere in Chicago on December 11.  Midwife Magdelane Stegeman, alias Motzny, was booked on December 28. The coroner initially cleared Stegeman. She was nevertheless indicted for felony murder by the Grand Jury on February 15, 1927.

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. In fact, 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.

Denise Holmes, a 24-year-old Australian woman living in Texas, decided to undergo a safe and legal abortion at Avalon Hospital in Los Angeles, California, on her way home for Christmas of 1970. Denise checked into Avalon Hospital (an abortion facility owned by Edward Campbell Allred) on December 21. Denise suffered an amniotic fluid embolism that carried pieces of fetal bone marrow into her lungs. She was pronounced dead by Edward Allred at Avalon at 5pm. Denise is the first confirmed abortion death at an Allred facility, before the National Abortion Federationwas founded, with Allred's Family Planning Associates Medical Group as a member. Other women known to have died after abortion at Allred's facilities include: Patricia Chacon and.Mary Pena, 1984; Josefina Garcia, 1985; Lanice Dorsey, 1986; Joyce Ortenzio and Tami Suematsu, age 19, 1988; Deanna Bell and Susan Levy, 1992; Christina Mora, 1994; Nakia Jorden, 1998; Maria Leho, 1999; Kimberly Neil and Maria Rodriguez, 2000, and Chanelle Bryant, 2004.

On December 20, 1997, 27-year-old Jennifer Halner went to Potomac Family Planning for a safe, legal abortion, to be performed by under general anesthesia. Jennifer was transferred to the recovery room, still unconscious but breathing on her own, at 10:10 a.m. Her blood pressure was normal but her pulse was very rapid. A nurse put an oxygen mask on Jennifer, but removed the cardiac monitor and pulse oximeter. By 10:20, Jennifer was still unconscious. At the nurse's request, the anesthesiologist, without examining Jennifer, ordered an anti-vomiting drug. Five minutes later, the nurse again requested medication for the still-unconscious Jennifer, and the anesthesiologist ordered administration of a drug that is used to reverse the effects of anesthesia -- again, without examining the patient himself. When the nurse checked Jennifer's vital signs, she couldn't find a pulse. Jennifer's pupils were dilated.
The anesthesiologist finally came to check on the patient and began performing CPR, using a pediatric bag-valve mask too small for an adult patient. McLeod, in the mean time, performed two more abortions before going to assist with Jennifer's care. He ordered appropriate drugs administered but did not place a heart monitor on Jennifer. Finally, at around 10:42 a.m., McLeod told somebody to call 911. Paramedics arrived and found Jennifer in cardiac arrest. The medics immediately began appropriate resuscitation, intubating the patient, ventilating her with an adult-sized bag-valve mask, hooking her up to a cardiac monitor, defibrillating her, and administering appropriate drugs. The medics transported Jennifer to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. After aggressive resuscitative efforts by ER staff, the patient's heart was restored to a stable rhythm, and she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. But despite their best efforts, she died at 4:15 a.m. on December 21. McLeod also ran the Hillcrest abortion facility in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where Kelly Morse had died in 1996 after being inadequately resuscitated. 

Supporters of legal abortion would assert that Anna and Emily died because abortion was illegal, without any substantiating evidence and in the face of strong evidence that the ordinary risks of all surgery were so much greater at that time that more deaths could naturally be expected. They would also assert that although Denise and Jennifer's deaths were tragic, there would be more deaths were abortion not legal. Again, there is no evidence to support the claim, since the fall in maternal mortality in general, and abortion mortality in particular, had already leveled off after a precipitous drop in the 1930s and 1940s. Legalization, in fact, may have contributed to Jennifer's death by encouraging sloppy medical practice by doctors who no longer had to fear prison for injuring or killing abortion patients.

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