Sunday, May 04, 2014

1865, 1921, 1972, 1976, 1987: Deadly Abortions Across Time

The evening of Sunday, May 4, 1865, Mrs. Mary Cressin went to the Eleventh Precinct station house and reported a suspicious death an hour earlier, in the neighboring apartment of Mrs. Harriet Ellars. The victim was 18-year-old Emma Wolfer, and her cause of death was peritonitis. She had been working as a child's nurse in Dr. Charles Cobel's family home. For some reason she went to Ellers' on Sunday to arrange board, and Monday to move in. She was very sick, with Dr. Cobel coming two or three times a day to attend to her -- always alone in the room with her.

By Wednesday afternoon, her condition was deteriorating. Mrs. Ellars, alarmed, sent for Emma's family. Emma told her sister that she was dying, and said that she had been seduced by Dr. Hoffman, who had left her pregnant. Hoffman had given her powerful abortifacient drugs, and Dr. Cobel had shifted her to the Ellars home.

Cobel, a known abortionist, was also implicated in the deaths of Catharine DeBreuxal, Catherine Shields, Antoinette Fennor and Amelia Weber.


On May 4, 1921, 37-year-old Hungarian immigrant Katherine Falesch died in Chicago from an abortion perpetrated by midwife Eva Lroch. She was arraigned and held on $3000 bond, but there is no indication that the case went any further. 


In February of 1972, 21-year-old "Robin" traveled from Massachusetts to New York for a first trimester abortion. She underwent the procedure and returned home. About two weeks later, she started suffering abdominal pain. A month later, she was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and hepatitis. Three months after her abortion, on May 4, 1972, Robin died, leaving two children motherless.


Shortly after noon on May 4, 1976, 29-year-old Maria Gomez underwent a safe and legal vacuum abortion at Altantic Family Medical Clinic in Los Angeles County. Within an hour and a half she had bled to death. Maria's lacerated and gashed uterus still contained the severed head of her unborn baby, and more than a quart of blood was pooled in her abdomen. 


Twenty-four-year-old Patricia King went to Dean H. Diment in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a safe and legal abortion on May 4, 1987. She went into cardiac arrest after being injected with anesthetic. Paramedics arrived at Diment's Statewide Clinic and found the place so unclean that they could have written their names in the dust. Diment told them that he had injected Neo-Synephrine and sodium bicarbonate into Patricia's heart but no one had performed CPR or made any other attempt to revive her. She had been in arrest for 20 minutes. Paramedics could not revive her. 
Diment's associates at Statewide Clinic had a history of legal troubles. The medical director, Jimmie C. Tooney, had pleaded guilty in 1973 of writing narcotics prescriptions for a convicted drug dealer. Administrator William R. Cloud had been charged with conspiracy to commit illegal abortion in the early 1970's but had the charge dropped after abortion was legalized by Roe v. Wade.

Statewide Clinic advertised that it was "licensed by the state," but at the time of Patricia's death, abortion clinics were not regulated by the state of Oklahoma. Statewide had not been inspected since the attorney general had declared state oversight unconstitutional in 1984. 


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