Thursday, April 18, 2013

Legal and Illegal, Before and After Roe

In the early morning of April 18, 1981, 30-year-old Barbara Lerner was found dead from blood poisoning. The Centers for Disease Control investigated Barbara's death and designated it as due to a legal abortion.

"Sandra" was 18 years old when she underwent a first-trimester abortion procedure in New York, under the state's liberal abortion law. Three days later, on April 18, 1971, Sandra killed herself. Before her death, she had expressed guilt about having "killed her baby." Tragically, nobody had contacted Sandra to give her the results of the pathology report on what had been removed from her uterus. There had been no embryo. Sandra had not actually been pregnant.

On April 18, 1908, 36-year-old homemaker Sophia Turner died in Dr. Jessie E. Robertson's Chicago office from complications of an abortion performed April 18. Robertson was acquitted for reasons not given in the source document.

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

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