Sunday, June 30, 2013

1998 and 1982: Bleeding to Death from Safe, Legal Abortion

Kendra McLeod, single mother of two, underwent an abortion at a clinic in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on June 12, 1998. She bled heavily after the abortion. The day after her abortion, she sought help at an emergency room. She had fainted three times by the time she got into the emergency room at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. Doctors at the hospital transfused Kendra with nine units of blood and performed surgery to try to save her life, to no avail. She died on June 30, at the age of 22. Her family lost a lawsuit against the hospital. Documents do not note if the family sued the abortion provider.

Seventeen-year-old Jennifer Suddeth underwent a safe and legal abortion performed by Frank Robinson on June 30, 1982. On the drive home, Jennifer bled heavily, alarming her boyfriend, John Fredzess. Fredzess called the clinic repeatedly over the four hours after their return home, but staff would not put the call through to Robinson. One nurse admonished Fredzess to "be realistic" about how severely Jennifer was bleeding. By that time, Jennifer had bled through two pairs of sweat pants, two blankets, and a towel. At last the hysterical husband was able to contact Robinson, who insisted that the bleeding was normal and instructed Fredzess to stop calling. When Jennifer went into convulsions, Fredzess called an ambulance. Paramedics arrived at the home to find Jennifer already dead. Police interviewed the weeping and hysterical Fredzess, then pressed charges against Robinson for involuntary manslaughter in Jennifer's death. Although Robinson beat the rap, the state of California nevertheless counted Jennifer's death as due to illegal abortion.

Abortion advocates would assert that while Kendra's and Jennifer's deaths were tragic, more women would die if abortion were recriminalized. That claim doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Abortion deaths fell dramatically during the 20th century, not due to legalization of the practice but due to improved overall health and improved health-care practices.

We can see that starting in 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. And as you can see from the graph below, the fall in abortion deaths was in place long before legalization. Legalization did nothing to change the number of deaths each year; the trend had been in place for decades. Learn more here.

Since the Centers for Disease Control indicated that no woman should bleed to death from abortion, given the current state of medicine, Kendra's death must have begun with some screw-up.  Jennifer's death was due to unadulterated quackery. If abortion-rights advocates are serious about protecting women's lives, they'd worry more about deadly quacks like Robinson and less about prolife pregnancy centers that keep women out of the hands of quacks like Robinson.

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