Friday, January 22, 2016

From Criminal in Chicago to Erstwhile Criminal in Texas

Criminal Chicago: Two Habitually Deadly Female Doctors

On January 22, 1900, Mrs. Barbara Shelgren, age 25, died at Augustana Hospital in Chicago of an abortion performed that day. Paulina Bechtel, identified as a midwife in the Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database, was arrested and held by Coroner's Jury and indicted of homicide by a grand jury, but the case was thrown out by Judge Holdom. Bechtel was tried in the October 3, 1895 abortion death of Mrs. Kittie Bassett. She was implicated in the abortion death of Ida Henry in 1900, but was identified as a physician in that case. According to Leslie Reagan, author of When Abortion Was a Crime, it was common for female physicians to be misidentified as midwives. Therefore I am going to assume that Bechtel was indeed a doctor. Bechtel went on to kill Mary Thorning in 1911.

A bespectacled woman, past middle-age, staring intently into the camera. She wears a dark sailor-style hat and collar.
Lucy Hagenow
On January 22, 1925, 17-year-old homemaker Jean Cohen, a Connecticut native, died at Chicago's Montrose Hospital from an abortion performed earlier that day. On January 31, Louise Hagenow was arrested in Jean's death. However, Hagenow, though a known abortionist, was for some reason cleared in Jean's death. Hagenow, who had already been implicated of the abortion deaths of Louise Derchow, Annie DorrisAbbia Richards, and Emma Dep in San Francisco, relocated to Chicago, which as Hagenow later noted was more corrupt and thus a more genial environment for criminal abortionists. There she was connected to over a dozen abortion deaths, including  Minnie Deering, Sophia Kuhn , Emily Anderson, Hannah Carlson, Marie HechtMay Putnam, Lola Madison, Annie Horvatich, Lottie Lowy, Nina H. Pierce, Bridget Masterson, Elizabeth Welter, and Mary MooreheadHagenow was typical of criminal abortionists in that she was a physician.

Pre-Roe Legal in California

In June of 1967, then-Governor Ronald Reagan signed a bill legalizing abortion in California. The earlier law, passed in 1861, had allowed abortion only if intended to save the mother's life. The 1967 law allowed abortions in case of the mother's physical or mental health or for young teens pregnant through rape or incest. The mental health provision essentially allowed abortion on demand, since the woman could simply assert that she would kill herself were she not permitted the abortion. Abortions had to be performed by qualified physicians in an accredited hospital and could only be performed up to 20 weeks. The bill also allowed the establishment of dedicated abortion hospitals.

One of the purported beneficiaries of the new law was 26-year-old Kathryn StrongOn January 21, 1972, she went to Civic Center Hospital in Oakland, California for a legal abortion that was to be performed by Dr. Harold Van Maren. I have not been able to determine the grounds for Kathryn's abortion. During the procedure, her uterus was perforated. According to her medical records, she suffered extensive hemorrhage and shock. She died the following day, leaving behind a three-year-old son. It's difficult to judge if Kathryn's death was due to malpractice, since perforation was a known complication which could happen even if the abortion were performed with care, but, of course, could also be caused by carelessness. 

A Former Criminal Abortionist Goes Safe and Legal in Texas

 The January 22, 1980 death of 22-year-old Vanessa Preston seems to be a clear case of "all surgery has risks."  National Abortion Federationmember Curtis Boyd  had started his abortion practice illegally in the 1960s, During the abortion, Vanessa suffered multiple vaginal punctures -- not the kind of injury likely to prove fatal. However, before Boyd could remove the placenta, Vanessa went into a grand mal siezure and then into cardiac arrest.

Headshot of a very earnest-looking bearded and bespectacled white man, past middle age
Curtis Boyd
To the credit of Boyd and the Fairmount staff, emergency procedures were immediately instituted. They summoned an ambulance and made appropriate and effective effects at resuscitation while waiting for EMS. During exploratory surgery at the hospital, during which 24 units of blood were administered to try to stop her circulatory system from collapsing, Vanessa died. An autopsy revealed that Vanessa's uncontrollable bleeding had been caused by an amniotic fluid embolism (AFE - amniotic fluid in the mother's bloodstream) and disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC - a blood clotting disorder) during the abortion. When Boyd's staff resuscitated Vanessa, they caused a small laceration of her liver. This is typical in even properly performed CPR, and is not usually life-threatening. 

However, because of the DIC, Vanessa's blood couldn't clot, and she bled to death from the liver laceration. Since second-trimester evacuation abortions were still new at the time, Boyd and his staff didn't realize that there was a risk of DIC. To Boyd's credit, he reported Vanessa's death to the Centers for Disease Control and wrote a medical journal article warning other abortion practitioners that DIC could occur during second-trimester evacuation abortions.

No comments: