Saturday, June 08, 2013

Habitual Quackery, Mystery, and the Work of a Doctor

The survivors of 32-year-old Joyce Ortenzio filed suit against Edward Allred, his Family Planning Associates Medical Group (FPA), the San Vicente Hospital FPA facility, and abortionist Ruben Marmet. Joyce went to San Vicente for laminaria insertion by Marmet on June 7, 1988. Later, Marmet performed a safe and legal abortion, but did not remove all of the fetal parts from Joyce's uterus. The next day, June 8, Joyce was found dead in her home. The cause of death was an overdose of the drug amitriptyline, infection from fetal parts that were not removed during the abortion and septic shock. FPA remains a member of the
National Abortion Federation in spite of numerous patient deaths, including Denise Holmes, Patricia Chacon, Mary Pena, Josefina Garcia, Lanice Dorsey, Tami Suematsu, Deanna Bell, Susan Levy, Christina Mora, Ta Tanisha Wesson, Nakia Jorden, Maria Leho, Kimberly Neil, Maria Rodriguez, and Chanelle Bryant. If the prochoice movement stopped trying to demonize centers that provide women with alternatives to abortion, fewer would wind up in the hands of careless abortionists, though it would also help if they started holding NAF accountable for its failure to ensure that its own standards are actually practiced at member facilities.

On July 9, 1916, 27-year-old homemaker Mina Mallett died at Chicago's Washington Park Hospital from septic infection caused by an abortion perpetrated on June 8. I've been unable to find any other information about Mina's death so I can't offer any speculation on preventability factors.

Abortifacient pills
In 1914, when Mrs. Julia Reed's eighteen-year-old daughter Ester Reed reported that her period did not arrive, Mrs. Reed took her to two people to find out whether she was pregnant, bought pills to induce an abortion. These didn't work, so she took Ester to Dr. J.L. Neuman, who started the abortion at his practice, then completed it two days later at the family's home. Ester died of septicemia on June 8 at Park Avenue Hospital. The secret abortion intended to keep Esther's father from kicking her out of the house thus removed her from the family permanently. Options that might have been taken to avoid the abortion include marriage, arranging for Ester to make an extended visit to a discreet friend or relative who could have adopted the baby or arranged an adoption to another family, or helping Ester to establish herself in her own dwelling away from her father. Neuman was arrested January 11, 1917, and though the case went to trial, the source does not indicate the outcome.
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, due to improvements in addressing these problems, maternal mortality in general (and abortion mortality with it) fell dramatically in the 20th Century, decades before Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion across America.

For more information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.

external image MaternalMortality.gif

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