Wednesday, March 23, 2016

From Criminal in Chi-Town to Safe-n-Legal in New York

Criminal in Chicago -- Three Typical Deaths

On March 23, 1905, Mrs. Ida Pomering, a 30-year-old German immigrant, died in Chicago from an abortion performed earlier that day.Apollonia Heinle was held by the coroner's jury for Ida's death. Heinle was identified in a death record as a doctor, but is elsewhere identified as a midwife. This does not rule out her being a doctor, since female obstetricians were, at that time, typically called midwives. Heinle suffered no long-term ill effects from Ida's death. She was still a practicing midwife-abortionist in 1909, when the Illinois State's Attorney declared "war on midwives" as an approach to stamping out abortion in the state. Doctors, however, were also quite commonly identified as the guilty parties after abortion deaths in Chicago in that era.

On March 16, 24-year-old Dora Swan of Chicago underwent an abortion at the hands of Dr. Louise Achtenberg. Achtenberg came to the home several times to care for Dora, but her condition was not improving. Her family called the family physician, Dr. C. S. Friend. He had her admitted to Englewood Union Hospital in Chicago to be treated. Dora died from post-abortion infection on March 23. Achtenberg, a doctor identified as a midwife due to her obstetric work, went on to be implicated in the 1909 abortion deaths of Stella Kelly and Florence Wright. She was also implicated in the 1921 abortion death of Violet McCormick. Later, in 1924, it was Dr. Louise Achtenberg who was held responsible for the death of Madelyn Anderson. In spite of all of these deaths, I can find no record that Achtenberg was ever incarcerated.

On March 23, 1917, 19-year-old Mary Conners died at Chicago's County Hospital, refusing to name the abortionist who had fatally injured her that day. Abortions in Chicago at that time were typically perpetrated by physicians or midwives.

Safe and Legal in New York

Lynn McNair, age 24, was 23 weeks pregnant when she went to Jewish Memorial Hospital in New York for an abortion in March of 1979. Her doctor, Edward Rubin, chose the saline abortion method, in which amniotic fluid is removed with a large syringe and then replaced with a sterile salt solution strong enough to be toxic. Because of risks to the mother, Japan, Sweden, and the Soviet Union all banned the saline abortion method before abortion was even legalized in the United States.

The first injection of saline failed to kill the fetus, so Rubin injected a second dose of saline. Lynn went into convulsions and slipped into a coma. Amniotic fluid, tainted with the strong salt solution, got into her blood stream and damaged her lungs. She died on March 23, leaving two children motherless.

Rubin continued to perform abortions, performing a fatal abortion on 28-year-old Dawn Mendoza at Women's Medical Pavilion in Dobbs Ferry, NY in 1988. Dawn also died from getting abortion material in her lungs, though in her case the abortion was done by dismembering the 22-week fetus, allowing both amniotic fluid and bits of the placenta to travel to the mother's lungs.

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