Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Banality of Abortion

HT: Jill Stanek

"My Abortion," the New York Times hopes, will "destigmatize" abortion and generate -- um -- I hope they're not shooting for enthusiasm, because these aren't really your upbeat, "Abortion changed my life for the better" tales the collectors of said tales were probably hoping for.

Let's have some examples. (Emphasis mine)
Nicole, 19
Kentucky, 2013
It was this past spring. The due date’s coming up—I’m dreading it. I wanted to keep it. My boyfriend always had football practice, so he couldn’t go to the doctor appointments with me. If he’d gone, he would’ve felt differently. But he said, “No way.” I wanted to show him that I loved him enough to do it for him. When I was thirteen weeks, we made an appointment at the closest clinic in Kentucky, four hours away, but the night before, we decided not to go. At two in the morning, he called and said, “Get dressed.” I said, “I don’t want to go.” We both cried the whole way there. I don’t think abortion is killing, but I’d always been against it. When I told him the credit-card scanner at the clinic wasn’t working, he asked if I was making it up. We went to get $1,000 from a gas-station ATM. I was hysterical, and he said, “Okay, you don’t have to go back.” I was so happy. Then he said, “We drove all this way. Stop crying, act like a woman.” I was angry, but I was so sleepy and tired of fighting. When I had the ultrasound, I asked for the picture and a nurse said, “Seriously?” A month later, he said he regretted it too. When I cry about it, I cry alone. He thinks it would make me sad to talk about, but I don’t want our baby to think we forgot. I’ve never heard of anybody else having an abortion here.
So, that's Example #1: Browbeaten into unwanted abortion by boyfriend, feeling pretty miserable. She needed a friend, not an abortion.
Mira, 29
South Dakota, 2004
The day I got accepted to college, I had a positive pregnancy test. I went to a community health center and said I wanted to talk to a nurse about my options. They told me to leave. The closest three clinics were all 300 miles away. I borrowed my mother’s car. My boyfriend, now my husband, came with me. I honestly don’t remember how we came up with the $700. We left at 5 p.m., after work, and drove to Colorado. It was the dead of winter, cold. Weather can be touchy through the Rockies. We stayed in a hotel in Cheyenne, another $60, but we couldn’t sleep. I felt very on edge. I wished someone I knew besides my boyfriend was nearby. When we got to the clinic, an escort met us at the car and asked if we wanted a bulletproof vest. Inside the clinic, the doctor took my hand and apologized that I had to travel so far. Ten minutes later, it was done.
WTF? She remembers all those details, but there's no real content. No feelings (other than "on edge"), no thought process, no conclusion of anything but her baby's life.

Heather, 32
Tennessee, 2011 and 2013
I already had two daughters. Neither was planned, and it never, ever, occurred to me to terminate those pregnancies. I was brought up with a very religious background. Now I’ve had two abortions, and if my family knew, my relationship with my family would be gone. My first was two years ago. My husband and I were having financial problems and were considering separating. I just had to shut my conscience down. The doctor was grotesque. He whistled show tunes. I could hear the vacuum sucking out the fetus alongside his whistling. When I hear show tunes now, I shudder. Later, he lost his license. A few months ago, I got pregnant again. My in-laws have been helping us out financially, so we have no choice but to involve them in our decisions. They gave us $500 cash to bring to the clinic. I felt very forced. I felt like I was required to have an abortion to provide for my current family. Money help is a manipulation. I’m crazy in love with my daughters—imagine if I did that to them? It’s almost too much to open the door of guilt and shame because it’ll all overcome me. In the waiting room, there was a dead silence that’s hard to describe. Everyone was holding in her emotions to a heartbreaking degree. Truly pro-life people should go light on the judgment, because shame motivates abortions.
Feeling trapped and pressured and forced to violate her own conscience. The first clinic had a creepy quack doctor who ended up losing his license. The second one was like a tomb. Where's the free choice, the caring and compassionate professionals, the liberation?
Mayah, 23
Oregon, 2009
I was secretly excited for the ultrasound. But they couldn’t see it. They said I could let it grow and go back for the procedure, but I couldn’t stand the idea of letting it grow. I went into this refrigerator of a room, with a tiny poster of a tropical island pasted on the ceiling, and this middle-aged white lady nurse told me to breathe and hush. I wanted to sock her in the face. A couple days later, I found out I was still pregnant. The amoeba—my baby—was somehow surviving. The next time, I kind of hoped it wouldn’t work. I kept saying negative things to myself, like, “Stop being such a baby.” Afterwards, I felt this mix of regret, relief, gratitude, and I had a new sense of control and determination about my future, like, I’m going to do this and this and this. I tracked the whole pregnancy online, living in fantasies about how big my belly would be. The only people who would listen to me say I had any emotions were people who wanted me to fall down on my knees and ask for forgiveness. I saw a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center, but she gave me an icky feeling. There’s no room to talk about being unsure.

So many mixed emotions, so much uncertainty. And though she got rid of her baby, she couldn't let go. This is sad.
Janet, 48
California, 1983
When I was 18 I was drugged and date raped. I just remember waking up with the guy on top of me with this weird grin. When I found out I was pregnant I just thought: That asshole. I didn’t think about the baby. I had to save up money, so I had to wait for the very last possible week. My best friend drove me. I was very scared. When I was actually at the facility I thought, Oh my God, there’s a baby inside me. The staff was very matter-of-fact, no kindness. A nurse said, “It looks like it was a girl.”
Recognized that it was a baby, went through the abortion. And the only feeling expressed is disgust for the rapist. Like Mira's, her story is emotionally void.
Abby, 28
New York and Oklahoma, 2010 and 2011
The first time I was 25, in New York. From the time I was a teenager, the idea of having an abortion if pregnant was a no-brainer. I had this idea you can’t let life get in the way of your plans. My friend drove me. The procedure was in a tiny, bright white room—it was like a nightmare, but it was over really, really quickly. They moved me into this communal healing room. Women were reclining on big, pillowy chairs. I remember feeling comforted, warm—we’d all been through the same experience. Two years ago, I was in Oklahoma. I wasn’t given a choice in method—I got the pill. My boyfriend worked in Idaho—I was alone. They gave me all this paperwork that said, “This is serious. You could die,” and an antibiotic, painkiller, and a latex glove and a pill to shove up my vagina. At home, the antibiotic made me vomit and shit everywhere. I thought, Fuck the latex glove! Fuck them for thinking I can’t touch myself! After the contractions started, my hands turned into claws. I was dehydrated. I had this underlying feeling that I was being made to suffer, to repent for my situation. I called my boss. He took me to the ER. It cost $2,000. When I stood up, the bed was covered in blood. I felt ashamed, but the way he reacted with kindness, I saw that I could choose not to feel ashamed. When I went home, I got up to pee, and this gray golf-ball thing came out. I thought, So I just flush the toilet?

The first abortion was "like a nightmare" but at least "it was over really, really quickly." The second abortion, strangely enough, she doesn't describe as a nightmare. But then, she doesn't have to. It's hellish enough without being elaborated on. And again, like Mira's and Janet's stories, it just stops. In fact, it stops with a question that she never answers.
Maria, 38
Pennsylvania, 2003
We had a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old and hadn’t envisioned having more. At first I thought, Well, I love my husband, and we have plenty of money. I had this naïve notion that access to abortion was easy for people like us. I called my doctor, who referred me to someone else because that practice didn’t perform abortions. I’d never thought of myself as someone who goes to a clinic. I called five doctors, each time having to explain how I’d gotten the number, as if I needed some secret code. Pittsburgh has world-class medical centers, but it took a couple of days to get an appointment. Pennsylvania is one of 26 states that require a waiting period between counseling and the procedure. We went back the next day. The staff was great. It felt a lot like a regular checkup but with painful cramping. My insurance covered the whole thing. In the waiting room, my husband said, “Where do you want to go on vacation?” We booked a trip to Spain.
This is, I think, the creepiest story. A stable marriage, enough money, too hoity-toity to go to a clinic like the unwashed masses, and then off to Spain. WTF?
Anya, 36
New York and California, 2003 and 2006
I actively support Planned Parenthood for doing important work, but I was stuck in a waiting room for hours, with young girls, some flippant, some sad, and the doctor was dead-faced and didn’t make eye contact. I woke up in a gurney in the hallway, surrounded by chaos. No one checked on me. About three years later, in L.A., I found out I was pregnant again. There was this lightbulb moment when I realized I had health insurance. I made an appointment at a hospital, and the whole thing cost about $30. On the way, my boyfriend started freaking out, saying, “What if you’re killing my son?” I had him pull over so I could drive. I respect that it was an emotional experience for him. I never think about the abortions. When I tell people, they respond with a panic face, and when I say I’m truly okay with it, they make a second panic face. I end up comforting them. 

Another ringing endorsement for Planned Parenthood. And like so many of the others, she just comes across as emotionally flat.
Lynn, 28
Kentucky, 2012
I called the university health services from the Walmart parking lot and said I wanted the abortion pill, and the woman said, “The abortion pill is illegal in the United States.” I was livid. I said, “That is not correct.” How many young women has she told that to? I went directly to the doctor. The lady administering the pee test said, “Congratulations, you’re pregnant!” and I thought, Congratulations, you’re an idiot! I was in my gym clothes, obviously distraught. The doctor said the abortion pill wasn’t an option in our state. I called clinics all over until I found one a four-hour drive away in Tennessee. I couldn’t have told my family. The two girls I told have kids and husbands; they couldn’t just drop everything and come with me. I drove four hours by myself, thinking about what an idiot I was for stopping birth control. I took the first pill in Tennessee. I took the second one the next day, on the Fourth of July, my favorite holiday. I was expecting something terrible. I watched movies alone. I felt fine and could’ve even gone out, but I’d made up stories about where I was.
Not using birth control. And another emotionless story that just abruptly ends.

These stories are meant to normalize abortion and, I guess, make it seem more okay. Like just another life experience, on a par with having to get major suspension work done on your car. Expensive and inconvenient and well, that's life.

I'm not sure these dismal tales will have their intended effect. In fact, I think the overall effect will be to just leave people oddly disquieted but otherwise squarely where they started.

The whole thing -- all these matter-of-fact tales of dead babies -- is just depressing. Is this really the world people want? Women dully trudging in and out of abortion clinics, not even really sure why they're doing it?

Paint it all gray. Just one uniform shade of gray.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What's the Alternative? Choose "Choice"?

They're all a-flutter at the HuffPo over those mean old "antichoice" (their word) organizations getting money from those mean old "Choose Life" license plates.

Of course, the rational, adult response would be to create a plate putting out one's own message. But with what can one counter "Choose life"? Choose Choice?

I decided to revisit the old Choose Choice plates theme by critiquing what's there. Please let me know if there is any update in the status of these plates. And please note that I'm not going to address any of the assumptions behind the plates, just the plates themselves.

To be fair, all of these designs start at a disadvantage. Abortion is not exactly an upbeat thing, like the birth of a new baby, so it's hard to come up with a cheery graphic.

Massachusetts. They seem to be struggling pretty hard with the inherent downer that most people find abortion to be. They just drag out the standard non-approved fetus-dislodger, the coathanger. This is the only plate that in any way acknowledges that the topic in question is abortion rather than the market-tested "choice" that everybody else sticks with. As a result, the plate is simultaneously militant and depressing.
Florida. Adorable! Look how the little aborted baby stars fly up to Heaven while the one little lucky "chosen" star ... floats .....  Um.... Mom? You're not even holding that baby. That's a bit disturbing. I'll push that thought away by assuming that Junior is in a snugli. After all, there's no point in getting your hands all tied up with even a chosen child.

Alaska. Like Florida, they go for the floating-baby theme, though it's hard to say if these parents are throwing the baby or trying to catch him as he flies away. Are they letting him go or trying to hold on? Either way, it strikes me as a bit unsettling in the abortion context. Just as an aside, the people also look a bit like sleds, particularly against the snowy background. This is the only plate I've seen that graphically acknowledges the existence of the father.

Virginia. This seems to still be in the proposal stage and not gracing the Prius yet. Featuring minimalist art like the Florida and Alaska plates, this one is utterly childless. It's hard to tell if the checkmark-woman is fleeing or celebrating. Maybe she's not sure herself. Is that elongated arm holding her back or is she unable to let go?

Hawaii. A ballot graphic with the ambiguous word "choice" is dull and boxy. Placing it atop the rainbow background that's on all Hawaii plates leaves the meaning even more ambiguous. Is it a gay rights plate? What's the driver trying to say? Where did the extra money for the plate go? Maybe it's best not to ask too many questions.

Montana. They're not content with mere ambiguity and are going for a total message-flip. They might actually be hoping to sell these plates to people who like the mother-and-child design and who would never dream that they're taking a stand for abortion rights.

Pennsylvania. The straightforward Planned Parenthood logo lets people know up front where their money will be going. Kudos for the honesty in that, PP, especially considering how little honesty your organization is known for overall. Pennsylvania plates typically have much more dynamic designs, so this one took zero effort, as if they just couldn't be bothered.

These are the only plates I've been able to find. I'd love to list more.


This last plate is totally unrelated to the  post but I spotted it and found it amusing, if somehow darkly ironic, considering the search that produced it:

Saturday, November 09, 2013

NARAL's latest Human Shield: Dana Weinstein

What kind of organization takes a devastated, bereaved mother and uses her as a human shield to protect their allies' political and financial interests?

The name of the organization is NARAL Pro-Choice America. The bereaved mother is Dana Weinstein.

Dana's pain is very real, as is the pain of women in similar situations. What compounds the tragedy is that her horrible anguish is being used for the political and financial gain of abortion practitioners and the political organizations they work with and through.

Using this poor woman as a human shield is absolutely despicable. This woman has been lied to at every turn by people she trusted.

Anencephaly does NOT cause the baby pain. Dana did NOT have to be alone, because perinatal hospice is available. Serious fetal problems are a MINORITY of the reasons for late abortions. This woman had already been abused by her health care providers and by Warren Hern who charged her thousands of dollars to kill her baby. She doesn't need to be exploited by people who are afraid of being called out on their lies and instead put them into the innocent mouth of a bereaved mother.

There are three important responses to this appalling exploitation:

1. Hold Dana's health care providers accountable for lying.

Dana was already traumatized beyond what any mother should have to endure in learning that her baby was going to die. It was an unconscionable act of cruelty to then tell her the flat-out lie that anencephaly would cause her baby pain. Though there is disagreement as to what, if anything, babies with anencephaly feel, the range of possibility runs from "the normal sensations any baby would feel" to "no sensations at all."

What possible justification could anybody have for lying to Dana, when she was already staggering beneath the horrible blow of devastating news? What justification could there be for adding to her anguish? Wasn't she already suffering enough? In fact, she was told that her only choice was abortion.

We can't know why the health care professionals in Dana's life chose to heap false horror on top of real tragedy. We do know, sadly, that this is not at all uncommon. Doctors -- such as the doctors these women had to deal with -- need to start being held accountable for bullying their patients.

2. Hold Dana's health care providers accountable for failing to provide appropriate care.

It's long been well documented that many women have very poor emotional and psychological results from abortions. Certain risk factors make it more likely that the woman will suffer serious emotional and psychological trauma from an abortion. Among those risk factors:

* The woman wants her baby.
* The abortion is taking place late in the pregnancy.
* The abortion is being done for some sort of medical indication.
* The woman finds the abortion decision to be a difficult one.

Dana, with all of these risk factors, was a poor candidate for an abortion. However, given the flat out lies she was told about her baby's condition, I sincerely doubt that she was informed of this. I also sincerely doubt that she was told about the option of  perinatal hospice.

Perinatal hospice helps the parents of a gravely ill unborn child the way a children's hospice helps the families of a gravely ill child of any age. The parents are given emotional support, help with writing a birthing plan, assistance in making plans for making the most of whatever time they might have with the child, and support in making arrangements for a memorial service.

There are also online supports available to parents who are facing a grave prenatal diagnosis. Again, I doubt that mentioning these supports to Dana even crossed anybody's mind.

In fact, Dana said that she felt alone when she got the diagnosis. So clearly she was not told that there are networks of people ready to help her, networks including families who faced exactly the same terrible diagnosis she and her husband were facing for their child.

3. NARAL needs to be held accountable for the full depth and breadth of the falsehoods they managed to cram into such a short ad.

FIRST: It's perfectly understandable that Dana believed that anencephaly would cause her baby to suffer needless pain. She was told this by her trusted health care professionals. But NARAL had a responsibility to vet the facts. Even something as brief and superficial as a Google search would have revealed that babies with anencephaly don't suffer any more pain than any other baby, if indeed they suffer pain at all. Including Dana's mistaken beliefs in the final cut amounts to a deliberate lie, that Dana's abortion was necessary to prevent her baby from suffering needless pain. I don't know why Dana's health care providers lied to her, but I have my suspicions about why NARAL lied to the public.

SECOND: NARAL can't fail to be aware of the facts about late abortions for fetal health reasons. The only reason the general public isn't more aware of the facts -- the terrible risk of psychiatric problems afterward, the high rate of browbeating women into aborting wanted babies -- is because organizations like NARAL deliberately hides these facts and presents to the public a picture that is the diametric opposite of reality. This is disgusting and inexcusable.

THIRD: NARAL asserted that late abortions "often happen in the most tragic circumstances." They knew full well that situations like Dana's are not even remotely representative of abortions past 20 weeks.  Clearly, somebody even told Dana that late abortions are typically cases such as her own, on order to have this bereaved woman unwittingly spouting their own lies, because who could challenge anything poor Dana said?

Even Ron Fitzsimmons, head of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, has called upon the prochoice movement to stop lying about the reasons women undergo late abortions. George Tiller, the nation's  most famous (or infamous) late term abortion practitioner admitted that only 8% of his third-trimester abortions were done for fetal indications. And remember, "fetal anomaly" is a broad category that includes everything from a fetal condition like anenecephaly to conditions like Down Syndrome -- hardly a fate worse than death -- to simple cleft palate. It also includes mere suspicion of a fetal abnormality. So putting Dana in front of a camera and presenting her as if she is a typical late-abortion patient is a bald-faced lie. If late abortion is really something society can get behind, why aren't abortion advocates putting forth more typical cases? (For more on this theme, see Late Abortion Lies: They're Only Done for Health Reasons.)

Every decent human being in the United States needs to call NARAL out on this despicable stunt.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bill Whittle on Abortion

Let me say first upfront: I love Bill Whittle. I think he's absolutely brilliant and one of the most articulate people expressing conservative and libertarian principles. I heartily recommend the many fine channels on his web site. Most of the time I think he totally nails things, and other times he gives me very valuable things to think about.

However, perhaps because it's not his strong suit, I think he fumbles the issue of abortion. Within this episode of his Stratosphere Lounge podcast, he covers how he sees abortion as a public policy issue, beginning at about the 53:00 mark and ending at about the 1:02:44 mark. He's devoting about ten minutes to it, and I want to respond.

Video streaming by Ustream

He begins by noting that he believes that conservatives and libertarians need to hash out and find a defined area of stands which we agree on based on our core principles on the role of government, and that we need to whittle that area down and find "the smallest raft that we can all fit on."

He also observes that conservatives can't win elections without evangelicals. The way he addresses abortion will lose the evangelicals totally. They will never support or vote for a candidate who advocates what Whittle does, which is either a "personally opposed prochoice" or a "reticent prochoice" stand. (You can find definitions of these terms in James Davison Hunter's phenomenal article, "What Americans Really Think About Abortion.") I hope that from the pragmatic grounds alone he gives some consideration to what I'm going to say. He does note that he might be wrong. As you would expect, I believe that on this issue he is.

Rather than tackle his statements in chronological order, I'm going to tackle first the pragmatic issue that I think he will agree on, but has never through through because abortion simply isn't his thing.

There are many ways that we could put the principle of small government to work when it comes to the federal government's policies and practices on abortion. I think that Mr. Whittle would find the following proposals palatable, and hope that he gives them due consideration as he speaks out:

  1. No federal money -- either domestic or as foreign aid -- should go to pay for, promote, or endorse abortion. That includes providing federal funds for organizations that perform or promote abortion.

  2. Abortion surveillance activities at the Centers for Disease Control must be halted for two reasons. First, abortion is not a contagious disease and thus falls outside the intended purview of the Centers for Disease Control. Second, since its inception the Abortion Surveillance Branch and subsequent abortion surveillance activities have served as de facto advocates for Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League, and in 1978 they became de facto advocates for the National Abortion Federation as well. Advocating for the social and political agendas of independent, private organizations is not within the Constitutional purview of the federal government.

  3. All other activities within federal agencies that serve to as de facto advocacy for abortion rights organizations should be identified and halted.

  4. Federal laws regarding abortion must be repealed. I realize that this will be unpopular on both sides. Prolife citizens will be outraged that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban is repealed. Prochoice citizens will be outraged that the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act is repealed. However, until we reach a consensus as to whether or not human beings are federally recognized as persons prior to emerging from the womb, these are state matters and should be decided at the state level.

  5. Regarding the federal Baby Doe and Born Alive Infants Protection Act, they will stand as clarification that 14th Amendment protections against being deprived of life without due process apply regardless of disability or circumstances of birth.

  6. Regarding transport of minors across state lines in order to evade parental involvement laws, this falls under federal kidnap statues which shall be enforced. The fact that the girl is consenting to or even initiating such transport does not grant her the federal legal status to do so. If the underage girl suffers injury or death due to this violation, federal penalties will be imposed accordingly.

  7. The United States Congress shall not hold hearings or investigations regarding abortion-related matters that do not fall within the federal purview as delineated in the Constitution. Permissible investigations or hearings could include the matter of whether human beings do or don't classify as persons entitled to equal protection under the 14th Amendment, as well as into whether or not prohibited abortion advocacy activities are being carried out with federal tax dollars.

These measures, while removing the federal government from the promotion and facilitation of abortion of course fall far short of ensuring that the 14th Amendment protection of all individuals are being appropriately protected, but they would be an excellent start.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

1939: Houston Death at the Hands of Two Men

On October 13, 1939, the body of Barbara Hanson, age 21, was found in a Houston, Texas, motel room. James Carter and George F. Norton pleaded guilty to performing the abortion that killed Barbara, and each received a 5-7 year sentence. I have no information at all on their qualifications.l

Barbara's boyfriend and another man pleaded guilty to accessory charges and were each sentenced to one year.

The information I have on Barbara's death is so scanty that it's difficult to draw any conclusions.

During the 1940s, while abortion was still illegal, there was a massive drop in maternal mortality from abortion. The death toll fell from 1,407 in 1940, to 744 in 1945, to 263 in 1950. Most researches attribute this plunge to the development of blood transfusion techniques and the introduction of antibiotics. Learn more here.
external image MaternalMortality.gif

Pre-Roe, Post-Legalization. An Ohio Woman's Death in New York

"Tammy" is one of the women Life Dynamics identifies on their "Blackmun Wall" as having been killed by a safe and legal abortion. She is one of the women whose death is described in "Maternal Mortality Associated With Legal Abortion in New York State: July 1, 1970 - June 30, 1972," published in Obstetrics and Gynecology on March 1974.

Tammy had traveled from Ohio to New York to undergo an abortion under New York's liberal abortion law. Her abortion was performed on September 25, 1971. She was 33 years old.
After the abortion, Tammy developed an infection which finally ended her life on October 13, 1971.

This chart shows the number of abortion deaths per year from 1941 to 1980. Do you think that legalization had any impact on the odds that Tammy would have survived her abortion? Why? Answer in your comments.

1936: Fatal Abortion by Surgical Nurse

As you read Margie Frasier's story, here is food for though.

1. California has recently passed a law allowing nurses, in other words, professionals with Gertrude Pitkanen's expertise, to perform abortions.  Do you think nurses are qualified to perform abortions? Do you think the legal status of abortion has an impact on whether or not nurses are qualified to perform abortions?

2. Pitkanen had married a former Butte police detective several years before Margie's death. This former detective, William VanOrden, arranged for a sanity hearing for his wife shortly after the case was dropped. Pitkanen was held for several days before being declared sane and released. Do you think that this connection with the police force had any impact on how the authorities handled situations in which Pitkanen's patients died?is an interesting tidbit of information relating to the case.

On October 11, 1936, 18-year-old Margie Fraser died in a hospital in her hometown of Helena, Montana from complications of a botched abortion.

Abortionist Gertrude Pitkanen
Abortionist Gertrude Pitkanen

An inquest was held, with eight witnesses, including four physicians. The inquest determined that Margie had undergone the abortion on October 1 in Butte. A surgical nurse, Gertrude Pitkanen (pictured), was charged with manslaughter on October 15.

Pitkanen, born in 1878 in Lincoln, Nebraska, had 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.

Nurse Pitkanen pleaded innocent in Margie's death and posted $5,000 bond. Due to insufficient evidence, and difficulty in finding witnesses, the charges were dropped on April 29, 1937.

Pitkanen was also charged with the abortion deaths of Violet Morse 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.

Margie's abortion was unusual in that it was performed by a nurse, rather than by a doctor, as was the case with perhaps 90% of criminal abortions.
external image Illegals.png

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Two Typical Pre-Roe Deaths

On October 6, 1904, Mrs. Mary Lawson died at Passavant Hospital in Chicago, from complications of a criminal abortion. Dr. Alois Rassmussen, an allopath, was sentenced to fifteen years at Joliet for the murder, but was able to get a new trial. In this second trial, he was acquitted. Note, please, that with 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.

Eleanor Haynes, age 22, died at Hackensack Hospital in New Jersey on October 6, 1937, after indicating that Dr. P. Ralph McFeely had performed an abortion on her. Eleanor's fiancee claimed no knowledge of an abortion. McFeely, a school and police physician who was also president of the local PTA, said that although he was treating Eleanor for a "minor ailment," he had not performed an abortion. McFeely was not indicted due to lack of evidence. 
During the first half of the 20th century, while abortion was still illegal, there was a massive drop in maternal mortality from abortion. The death toll fell from 1,407 in 1940, to 744 in 1945, to 263 in 1950. Most researches attribute this plunge to the development of blood transfusion techniques and the introduction of antibiotics. Learn more here.

external image MaternalMortality.gif

Saturday, October 05, 2013

A Likely Unavoidable Pre-Roe Death, and Entirely Preventable Deaths Post-Roe

On October 5, 1911, 38-year-old homemaker May Bambrick died from an ectopic pregnancy, evidently after an abortion perpetrated that day by midwife Emma Schultz. Schultz was held by the Coroner's Jury and indicted on October 12, but the case never went to trial. Since at the time there were no easy means to detect ectopic pregnancy, May's death can not really be attributed to either Schultz or the abortion.

In the post-Roe era, however, access to ultrasound and serial HCG testing (checking how pregnancy hormones are changing over time), there really is no excuse for an abortion doctor failing to determine an ectopic pregnancy. Still, they fail to diagnose ectopic pregnancies and women thus attribute symptoms of a pending rupture to post-abortion pain and don't seek prompt care, leading to their deaths.

Women who died because abortionists failed to diagnose ectopic pregnancies include Janyth Caldwell, Claudia Caventou, Barbara Dillon, Sherry Emry, Gladyss Estalislao, Josefina Garcia, Doris Grant, Yvette Poteat, "Denise" Roe, Angela Satterfield, Laura Sorrels, Magnolia ThomasBrenda Vise, and Lynette Wallace.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Life Report: Strawman Arguments Podcast Goes in a New Direction

I agree that we all tend to strawman. Listening and respect are a wonderful antidote. Listening and respect can, in fact, be life changing. The latest Life Report  podcast addresses the strawman argument, but not in the way you might expect. Among other things, it warns the listener that behind a strawman argument might lurk another matter that's well worth delving into:

When I was the Pro Life Guide at About.com, a woman -- let's call her Sally -- come to the forum complaining that prolifers just wanted to make ailing babies suffer needlessly before dying wretched deaths in a NICU.I started with the standard prolife, "No, we're not into pushing futile care...." but Sally stood firm. She insisted that the federal "Baby Doe"  law mandated that any baby, regardless of how disabled or sick, must be provided with the utmost possible intervention if there is even the slightest chance that an intervention will provide even an additional day of life.

My normal impulse at this point would have been to set her straight and tell her a thing or two. But I guess the Holy Spirit was with me. Instead, I indicated that this was not my understanding and asked her where she had gotten her information.

This is where we got to the real heart of the matter: Sally's obstetrician had told her these things after her unborn baby was diagnosed with spina bifada. Sally had been told that no matter how grave her son's condition, and regardless of her wishes, the baby would, by law, be subjected to the most aggressive treatments even if the doctors knew up front that this care would be painful and futile.

Sally had been told that the only way to protect her baby from essentially being tortured in a NICU would be to abort him. So she did. Whenever somebody spoke out against abortion -- especially abortion after prenatal diagnosis -- she felt very judged for "killing her baby" when the doctor had made it clear that the abortion was the only way to protect him from having needless agony inflicted on him after birth.

Here's where the fact that it was a forum helped. I told her that although this was not my understanding of the "Baby Doe" law, I'd research it. I did so and found that my memory was indeed correct. The "Baby Doe" law merely prohibited discrimination based on disability. For example, if a baby had both a disability and a life-threatening condition, the baby would get the same care for the life-threatening condition that would be given to a baby without a disability.

I shared links on the "Baby Doe" law and asked people for information about how hospitals were interpreting the law. I knew that the hospital where my friend's children had been born did not interpret the "Baby Doe" law as a mandate to provide futile care, but that was only one hospital. What about others?

Nobody was able to provide information about a specific hospital that mandated aggressive, futile care for disabled newborns.

I shared links I'd found about prenatal diagnoses, including parents' stories about choosing whether to provide aggressive care, comfort care, or something in between for their babies. I finally googled "futile care" and found Preemies: Baby Doe law creates miracles -- at a cost, which misrepresents the "Baby Doe" law, then conflates it with improvements in survival rates of premature infants. I don't know if the dishonesty is deliberate or not, but it certainly conveys the impression that the maximum of aggressive care is mandated for all babies, causing needless suffering and disability.

The article was anecdotal evidence that the "Baby Doe" law could certainly be misinterpreted by a hospital, or that hospitals might choose to use more aggressive treatment than they otherwise would due to fears that they'd be accused of breaking the "Baby Doe" law. But it wasn't exactly a smoking gun.

Over many months of seeking out information -- both by searching myself and by putting out calls to everybody I could think of -- I found zip, zilch, nada. I never was provided with any actual evidence that there were hospitals systematically inflicting intrusive and futile care -- or even aggressive care -- due to the "Baby Doe" law. I kept the forum members posted on my progress, or rather the lack thereof. Sally asked not to be given specific updates because it brought up memories that were simply too painful. Eventually she dropped out of the forum, and life went on.

Later, Sally reemerged -- quietly and unobtrusively -- as a pro-life post-abortive woman.

I respected her wish to remain quiet and unobtrusive. I hope she is thriving now. I hope that the people who participated in pushing her into an abortion have come to their senses and repented.

And I always strive to remember that everybody I encounter had a story. I'm not necessarily consistent or very good at it, but I try. Everybody is potentially a Sally.

Friday, August 16, 2013

#AbortionMatters: Because Safe-n-Legal Abortion Quackery Kills

For your Tweetfest convenience, a collection of examples of women killed by safe-n-legal abortion quackery, noting that there is indeed a need for a national dialog about, and approach to, abortion in order to improve women's health and well being. That's something we agree with the Feminist Majority Foundation about!

 BCuz U can't trust safe-n-legal doc not 2leave hemorrhaging pt. in care of receptionist.

 We need national policy BCuz even NAF sends women home 2bleed 2death.  

 BCuz  rally in favor of quacks who kill women via .  We need neutral oversight.

We need nat'nl  policy BCuz safe-n-legal NAF members let receptionists give anesthesia.

Nat'nl   discussion needed BCuz legal clinic charts dead pt. as "pink, alert, responsive."

National dialog needed: Safe-n-legal  docs still murder patients.  heads in sand.

NAF member scolded by PP Med. Director for playing "Russian roulete." Patients die. Dialog needed.

White safe-n-legal abortionists kill young black women, no consequences. We need dialog!  

Bullied into fatal unwanted . Women's health? NOT! Let's dialog.   

"Oh, Mama! It hurts so much!" Last words of legal  patient. Let's have dialog.  

Teen is 1 of 15  pts. killed at safe, legal NAF chain. Dialog needed!  

Legal  pt. stops breathing, not resuscitated properly, dies. Dialog needed!  

Legal  clinic discharges pt. 2bleed 2death by side of road. National dialog needed.

 doc makes private office look like clinic, kills pt.  outrage? NO! Dialog needed

Legal  pt. sent home bleeding, with fetus protruding from womb, dies. Safe? Dialog needed!

NAF just launched, member sends teen home with face & spine of fetus embedded in laceration. SAFE?

 hero give pt. horse business phone as "emergency number." Treatment delayed, pt dies.

Former "back alley butcher" kills 2 legal abortion pts, but remains NAF member.  HERO!

Legal  doc sends pt. home 2bleed 2death in front of her kids.  yawn. Dialog. 

 know how bad  is, refer 2him, let him kill 2 women. Dialog needed.  

Legal  doc shoves bleeding teen out door 2die. Coroner rules homicide, no prosecution.

Legal abortionist's quackery so bad he's charged with murder.  National dialog needed.

NAF member chain kills at least 15 legal abortion pts.  consider this "quality care."

Mom takes teen for legal abortion, finds her dead next morning on bathroom floor. Dialog needed!

Extreme quackery kills legal  patient.  yawn. National dialog needed!

NAF member clinic's  pt. dies after 5 years in coma. 1 of 3 dead pts. there. Safe? Hardly.

Criminal abortionist waits until after Roe 2kill patients with sloppy practice.  hero.

Legal abortionist slips pt. thru morgue w/o autopsy, quackery only caught by alert records clerk.

School helps arrange secret legal  for 13-year-old Teen dies, 1 of 3 at that NAF clinic. 

 delays care,  pt. bleeds2death. Still  icon. Dialog needed.

Teen dies when aunt takes her for secret legal . Good 4 families?

Doc scolded  meeting 4 "playing Russian roulette w/pts. lives," still member 4 dead pts. later.

Quack doctor's office looks like  clinic, pt. dies of quackery,  yawn. Dialog?

Cancer pt. lied to, tricked into fatal . No  outrage. We need national dialog. !

Teen coughs up blood, given paper bag. Stops breathing. Dies. Safe and legal? Hardly! Dialog needed.

Safe&legal  doc uses lidocaine overdose 2knock out pts. Teen dies. National dialog needed.

Abuser's sister arranges teen's fatal abortion w/"License to Lie"  hero. Dialog needed.

No training, no emergency gear,  pt. stops breathing, dies. Safe and legal! Dialog needed.

's quackery reported, ignored. Young woman injured, sent home to writhe, scream, die. 

National  Federation clinic fatally injures 2 teens simultaneously. Dialog needed.

Legal  clinic has hand-holder assist in anesthesia, no training or equipment, pt. does.

Teen legal  death discussed at NAF event attended by CDC staff. Death not noted. DIALOG!

#AbortionMatters: Let's Embrace Their Goals!

Here's the "Feminist Majority Foundation" page announcing the #AbortionMatters" "blog carnival."

Abortion. How festive.

Now -- let's look at what they say, and address the issues in a life-affirming way, not in the "What we need is for everybody to agree with us that abortion is the single most wonderful thing any woman can have at her disposal" light the FMF intends:
#AbortionMatters will showcase various personal essays and short policy pieces that stress the importance of a federal – and wholly national – approach to abortion. In an effort to destigmatize abortion, encourage wider education on the procedure, and normalize the conversation, we’re gathering stories to illustrate the complexity and unique experiences which shape the pro-choice movement and demand greater action. Pieces should stress / mention why a cohesive, national approach to abortion issues and decisions leads to better healthcare and well-being for women.
 1. I agree that there does need to be "a federal -- and wholly national -- approach to abortion." After all, the 14th Amendment specifically says that "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process." Legal abortion creates an entire class of people who can be deprived of life without due process, and thus is clearly unconstitutional.

2. We do need to "encourage wider education" on abortion procedures. People need to be made aware of exactly who is being destroyed, and how, and why.

3. "A cohesive, national approach to abortion issues and decisions" would indeed lead to better health care and well-being for women. A pregnant woman facing challenges should be offered help and support, not turned over to people who will scrape her out then shove her out the door to bleed and vomit in the parking lot. Not to mention the adverse effects of abortion on women.

Of course, they add the "destigmatize" abortion. Gosh, it turns out that slaughtering your own children is still considered a shameful thing. Who woulda thunk it?  We don't need to make abortion acceptable; we need to make it unthinkable. And if we keep pounding away at the three points, the things that FMF claims they want to do, we can get people to start asking why anybody would want abortions to be tolerated at all.

So let's get going! Go on and read the rules. Write and submit those blog posts! Submit them to the FMF, AND to me here! The email address is socialmedia@feminist.org. Put the links to your blog posts in the comments and I'll keep updating the list of entries that were submitted to FMF.

Let's have that national dialog, shall we?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

#LifeMatters vs. #AbortionMatters

The "Feminist Majority Foundation" is holding an "#AbortionMatters blog and tweetfest from August 23 through August 26.

Prolifers are responding with a corresponding "#LifeMatters" blog and tweetfest on the same dates.

Of course, if you know me, you know that I'll be joining #AbortionMatters with messages to get people past the idea that if they don't plan to avail themselves of abortion, it doesn't effect them.

Between now and the blog/tweetfest I'll be preparing blog posts with information about why the abortion culture hurts people who don't think abortion will touch them:
  • Women who face health problems during wanted pregnancies and end up not being offered life-affirming options.
  • Women who face a prenatal diagnosis and are pressed to abort their wanted babies.
  • Family members who lose wanted children, siblings, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to abortion.
  • Families who lose a beloved daughter, mother, sister, or wife to botched "safe and legal" abortions -- either through death or because those loved ones are left permanently incapactitated
  • Men who marry post-abortive women and then are left to help their wives through the damage that an abortion has done.
  • Bystanders who end up caught up in the drama of a woman collapsing from a botched abortion.
I'm also open to other suggestions of how abortion matters, even if you think it doesn't impact you.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Another NAF Clinic Closed by State

HT: Operation Rescue

Press Release: DHHS Takes Action to Protect Health and Safety of North Carolinians
(I have highlighted particularly important points.)
Raleigh, N.C.-In response to inquiries, the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed today that it has suspended the license of a medical clinic in Asheville, N.C, which specializes in abortions. After a routine survey of FEMCARE, Inc., inspectors found egregious violations of existing rules that revealed an imminent threat to the health and safety of patients. 

"Inspectors from Division of Health Service Regulation (DHSR) found the facility failed to comply with 23 separate rules," said Drexdal Pratt, Director of DHHS' Division of Health Service Regulation (DHSR). ....

In addition to other findings, the survey found the facility:
  • Failed to maintain anesthesia (nitrous oxide gas) delivery systems in good working condition, with torn masks and tubing held together with tape.This could lead to patients not receiving the intended dosage and risk patients not being fully sedated during surgical procedures, leading to pain and physical harm.
  • Failed to ensure emergency equipment had weekly checks to ensure the equipment was suitable for use in patient care and failed to ensure that emergency medicine wasn't expired.
  • Failed to have a resuscitator available.
  • Failed to sweep and mop the operating room floor and failed to properly clean operating room beds.
  • Failed to have a director of nursing responsible and accountable for all nursing services.
  • Failed to have an agreement/contract with an anesthetist or anesthesiologist.
  • Failed to have an agreement/contract with a registered pharmacist to assure appropriate methods, procedures and controls for obtaining, dispensing, and administering drugs.
FemCare is a member of the prestigious National Abortion Federation (see listing here), which purportedly provides the safest and highest quality abortion practitioners. However, one National Abortion Federation clinic allowed notorious abortionist and convicted murder/admitted drug dealer Kermit Gosnell to begin illegal third-trimester abortions on their premises and complete them in his Philadelphia "house of horrors," where they were doped within inches of their lives by amateurs and left to moan on bloody recliners amid the fleas and cat feces.

 FemCare is also a member of the Abortion Care Network, another organization that purports to refer women to safe and high-quality abortion facilities.

So much for the idea that prochoice organizations can be trusted to oversee abortion practitioners and to refer women to places that won't endanger their lives.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Chicago Deaths Two Years Apart

Mrs. Sophie Layton of Raleigh, North Carolina, was sentenced to five years for the abortion death of 20-year-old Miss Celia Roberts of Granville County. Celia had gone to Raleigh in July of 1931 for an abortion, which was perpetrated on July 22. She was taken to a hospital in Oxford, where she died on July 24 after naming Layton as her abortionist. Interestingly enough, it appears that a local Justice of the Peace had referred Celia to Layton for the fatal abortion.

On July 16, 1929, Dr. Sven Windrow performed an abortion on 19-year-old Emmy Anderson at a Chicago location. Emmy died on July 24. Dr. Windrow was held by the coroner on July 25. Jacque Lagrave, age 67, was held as an accessory. Windrow was indicted February 6, 1929 for felony murder. I've been unable to learn anything more about the case.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

1961: "Life-saving" Abortion Kills Young Woman

Erika Peterson, age 28, died July 23, 1961 during a legal abortion at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California. At this time, abortion was only legal in California if it was done to save the life of the mother.
Erika had entered the hospital on July 11, 1961 during the first trimester of pregnancy, because of problems breathing. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and placed in a tank respirator. Her physicians made the decision to abort her child as soon as she was well enough to undergo the abortion. On July 21st, Erika's condition was improved, and her husband signed the consent form for the abortion, which was scheduled to take place two days later. Erika went into cardiac arrest during the abortion and was unable to be resuscitated. The abortion that was intended to save her life ended her life instead. After autopsy, it was believed that Erika's original illness was caused by a hereditary disease that was exacerbated by the medications she was taking for her schizophrenia.

Erika's was not the only tragic death caused by doctors who recommended (or excused) abortion as a life-saving or health-preserving option for the mother:

  • Allegra Roseberry was pushed into an abortion in order to obtain experimental cancer treatment.
  • Anjelica Duarte sought an abortion on the advice of her physician, and ended up dying under the care of a quack.
  • Barbara Hoppert died after an abortion recommended due to a congenital heart problem.
  • Christin Gilbert died after an abortion George Tiller holds was justified on grounds of maternal health.
  • "Molly" Roe died in 1975 when her doctors made the dubious decision to perform a saline abortion to improve her chances of surviving a lupus crisis.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Modern Day Quackery and a Mystery from History

On July 22, 1974, twenty-two-year-old Carol Wingo died of a Demerol over dose during a safe and legal abortion at Mercy General Hospital in Detroit. Despite the name, Mercy was not a general hospital. It was an abortion hospital. It was also a hospital in big trouble even before Carole's death. The Michigan Public Department of Health had cited Mercy for 43 violations of nursing standards and 12 violations of physical plant standards in October of 1973, and had withheld their license. Among the violations were that the operating room lacked a cardiac monitor, a resuscitator, and a defibrillator.

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

Very little is on record about the death of 17-year-old Gertrude Wynants. According to the New York Times, Gertrude died on July 22, 1925, of a criminal abortion. Mrs. Margaret Shott Higgens, age 25, was indicted for manslaughter in Gertrude's death.

Abortion Deaths Through Over a Century

I've been unable to learn almost nothing about 25-year-old Sharon Margrove other than that on May 21, 1970, she died following a safe and legal abortion in Los Angeles County, California.

Elizabeth Radcliffe
Late in the evening of July 21, 1916, 21-year-old Roy Hinterliter showed up at the sanitarium in Olney, Illinois with an unconscious young woman, Elizabeth Radcliffe, in his buggy. Elizabeth, age 17, was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. An autopsy confirmed pregnancy, but showed no external signs of violence and all her reproductive organs appeared normal. However, upon cutting open her heart, air escaped. There were also signs of air embolism in the brain. There were no lung lesions to explain the air in Elizabeth's bloodstream. The Chicago Tribune reported that a hypodermic syringe, minus the plunger, had been inserted into Elizabeth's artery, admitting the air. Hinterliter was held without bail, and under guard for fear of a lynching, after the coroner's jury verdict. The case caused a sensation not only for the nature of the crime, but because Elizabeth was the county's first murder victim in 20 years.

On July 21, 1907, homemaker Madeline Paffrath died at German American Hospital in Chicago. She was approximately 21 years old. The coroner's jury determined that she had died from an abortion performed. They held two midwives -- Alice Rastone and Hacrone Schuetner -- responsible.

“Phoenix, July 21, 1891 -- Mrs. Alice White, the victim of the sensational abortion case, died this afternoon. Dr. Helm's bondsman immediately withdrew and he was again taken to jail. A warrant is out for the young man interested in the case.” The accused abortionist, Dr. Scott Helm, was described as "one of the best and most prominent physicians in Phoenix." Clearly Alice got the same kind of care in a criminal abortion that she would have gotten from a doctor doing the "safe and legal" kind.

On July 21, 1886, Mrs. Fred Winkleman was found dead in her Cincinnati home from a botched abortion. The last survivor of the Miller family, she had a small fortune of $13,000 which she had given over to Winkleman at their marriage four months earlier. Winkleman was arrested and freed on $5,000 bail. Police believed that Fred Winkleman, a 26-year-old druggist, had intended his wife's death in order to have free use of the money.