Friday, August 14, 2015

Illegal, Legal, and Self-Induced Deaths

On August 14, 1908, 23-year-old homemaker Bertha Isserstadt, a Jewish immigrant from Austria, died in Chicago from complications of an abortion performed August 5. A woman named Margaret Wiedman was held by the coroner, but eventually acquitted for reasons not given in the source document. Wiedman's profession was given as "abortion provider".

Black and white headshot of a young woman with dark blond or light brown hair
Mary Park
Mary Park, a 24-year-old schoolteacher of Greeley, Colorado, died August 14, 1917. Four years later, Dr. Nicholas J. Phelan was tried of murder in her death from illegal abortion, but he was acquitted by reason of insanity and sent to a mental hospital. The following year, Mary's body was exhumed, and Dr. E.L. Willis of Denver was subsequently tried and convicted in her death. He had been party to the abortion, performed at the Colonia Hotel in Denver. Willis was sentenced to 10 - 15 years in prison for Mary's death.

Yvonne Tanner, a 22-year-old mother of a young daughter, had a safe and legal abortion performed by Stephen Pine and/or Morton Barke July 10, 1984 at Inglewood Women's Hospital. Yvonne went into a coma immediately after the abortion, and died August 14, 1984. Her death certificate indicates coma, hypertension, and urinary tract infection. The suit by her survivors alleged that Yvonne was not adequately advised of the risks prior to undergoing the fatal abortion. The other women who met their deaths at Inglewood include  Kathy MurphyLynette WallaceElizabeth TsujiCora Lewis, and Belinda Byrd.

Kristina "Kris" Humphrey placed a high value on "self-determination" and doing things "naturally." She viewed modern medicine suspiciously, since her stepbrother had died from an allergic reaction to a medication. When she had gone to Planned Parenthood to abort a previous pregnancy, she had felt that they were trying to shame her. So after a positive pregnancy test in 1994, Kris didn't follow up on the referral to Planned Parenthood that her university health office had offered her. Instead, she consulted a friend who had reported success twice with a "natural" home abortion brew using pennyroyal and black cohosh root. On August 5, Kris began using the tea. Her friends thought all was well as Kris began to experience some vaginal bleeding over the succeeding days. 
Kris Humphrey
Kris's mother, Embee, however, was worried and urged Kris to get an ultrasound to make sure she didn't have an ectopic pregnancy. Kris grew ill and suffered pelvic pain and her friends grew concerned as well. Finally on Friday, August 12, Kris agreed to take a friend up on the offer of a loan and to go to Planned Parenthood for a clinic abortion on the 13th. Kris never made it. She collapsed overnight and began having seizures. Her friends called 911 and brought the abortion tea ingredients to the hospital with their friend. Kris had developed severe clotting problems and was bleeding from every orifice as well as all of her piercing sites. In a desperate attempt to save their patient's life, doctors did exploratory surgery and discovered that Kris had been trying to abort an embryo that had lodged in her fallopian tube. The embryo had died and become a site for infection. Removing the tube and the pregnancy, however, couldn't undo the damage Kris had done to her liver by continuing to take the pennyroyal concoction. She was taken off life support and declared dead on August 14. 

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