Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Repeat Offenders Continue to Cost Women their Lives

Chicago, 1900 and 1909: Repeat Offenders Cause Abortion Deaths

On January 12, 1900, Ida Henry, age 26, died at the home she shared with Dr. Paulina Bechtel, from complications of an abortion Bechtel had performed on her there that day. Bechtel, who said that she'd been practicing medicine for 18 years, was held by the Coroner's Jury. An undertaker had embalmed Ida's body prior to a post-mortem examination. He was censured for this compromising of evidence that would be found in the body, but was not charged with any crime. Ida's abortion was typical of pre-legal abortions in that it was performed by a physician. Bechtel had been tried in the October 3, 1895 abortion death of Mrs. Kittie Bassett. She was also implicated in the death of Barbara Shelgrenshortly after Ida's death, but was identified as a midwife 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, particularly if they practiced obstetrics. Bechtel went on to kill Mary Thorning in 1911. 

On January 12, 1909, Florence Wright, a 34-year-old Black woman born in Kentucky, died at Wesley Hospital in Chicago from nitrous oxide asphyxiation while being treated for complications of an illegal abortion perpetrated on January 3, 1909. Midwife Louisa Achtenberg, a white woman, was held without bail for the crime of murder by abortion. She was indicted for murder but the source document doesn't indicate that there was a trial. Achtenberg appears to have been implicated as well in the abortion deaths of Dora Swan in 1907, Stella Kelly in 1909, Violet McCormick in 1921, and Madelyn Anderson in 1924. For more abortion deaths in the 1900s, click here.

Safe and Legal in 1980

Shirley Williams was 30 years old when she underwent a safe and legal abortion in January of 1980. She suffered from infection and hemorrhage after her abortion. On January 12, 1980, she was pronounced dead from hemorrhage.

Legalized Abortionist Causes Second Patient Death, 1980

Middle-aged man of Eastern European descent sitting with open shirt collar in a wood-paneled office
Milan Vuitch
Also on January 12, 1980, 32-year-old Jeannie English went to the clinic of former criminal abortionist Milan Vuitch (pictured), who had been operating his clinic without a license for two years. Vuitch administered general anesthesia for Jeannie, and she never woke up. She was transported to a nearby hospital where she died. Vuitch settled with Jeannie's family for $150,000. When Vuitch was investigated, it was discovered that he kept patients overnight in his home (an unlicensed facility) which he designated "The Annexe." Inspectors also noted repeated violations of medical standards regarding sanitation and anesthesia. Vuitch also admitted during another case that he had lacked hospital admitting privileges since 1963. Vuitch was also responsible for the 1974 abortion death of 17-year-old Wilma Harris. Vuitch is one of three abortionists I know of who started out as criminal abortionists with clean records -- no patient deaths attributed to them -- who went on to kill two patient by performing the supposedly safer legal abortions. They are Jesse Ketchum (Margaret Smith and Carole Schaner) and Benjamin Munson (Linda Padfield and Yvonne Mesteth).

2005: Two Prochoice Heroes, One Dead Teenager
Profile shot of teenage girl with short, thick dark-brown hair, seated in a field of bluebonnets
Christin Gilbert

Christin Gilbert, a 19-year-old woman with Down syndrome, was brought from Texas to George Tiller's Wichita abortion facility for a presumably safe and legal late abortion on January 10, 2005. Christin was legally incompetent, unable to give her consent. Like all Tiller late abortion patients, ostensibly so sick that their pregnancies endanger their lives or health, Christin spent the bulk of her time during the abortion process at a motel, in the care of her family. 

On January 12, Tiller's staff diagnosed Christin as being "dehydrated". She was given IV fluids then sent back to the motel. She had numerous episodes of vomiting, and lost consciousness several times. Rather than call an ambulance or take her to the hospital, Christin's family waited until morning and took her to Tiller's clinic. There she went into cardiac arrest. Tiller employee Marguerite Reed called 911
, telling the operator that Christin was alert although LeRoy Carhart was performing CPR on a clinically dead patient. His efforts to revive her were so amateurish that EMS workers assumed that he was a bystander rather than a physician. 

Ambulance staff resuscitated Christin, then transported her to the hospital. She was pumped full of antibiotics to try to treat the underlying sepsis that evidently had caused the cardiac arrest, but to no avail. She died that day of systemic organ failure.

Middle-aged white man, wearing a suit and a lapel button reading, "Trust Women"
LeRoy Carhart
Christin's was not the only tragic death caused by doctors who recommended (or excused) abortion as a life-saving or health-preserving option for the mother:
  • Allegra Roseberry was pushed into an abortion in order to obtain experimental cancer treatment.
  • Anjelica Duarte sought an abortion on the advice of her physician, and ended up dying under the care of a quack.
  • Barbara Hoppert died after an abortion recommended due to a congenital heart problem.
  • Erika Peterson died in 1961 when her doctors obtained her husband‘s permission to perform a "therapeutic" abortion.
  • "Molly" Roe died in 1975 when her doctors made the dubious decision to perform a saline abortion to improve her chances of surviving a lupus crisis.

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