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.

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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.