Friday, April 15, 2016

Deadly Docs, Before and After Legalization

1932: Quack Abortionist Arises in Oklahoma City

headshot of a middle-aged white man with a high forehead and large nose, in 1/4 profile
Dr. Richard Thacker
Dr. Richard E. Thacker (pictured) maintained an office and operating rooms in the Terminal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In the early part of April, 1932, 21-year-old Ruth Hall of Bethany, Oklahoma, went to Thacker's office for an abortion. Over the following days, she took ill. Her mother pestered Thacker into coming to the house to provide aftercare, but had to remind him to sterilize his instruments. Over the upcoming days, Ruth continued to sicken. Her mother called in another doctor but by then it was too late. Ruth died from infection on April 15.

Thacker was prosecuted for Ruth's death. Over his understandable, albeit unsustainable, objections, the court permitted a number of witnesses to testify that after Ruth's visit to his practice, Thacker had performed fatal abortions on Robbie Lou ThompsonLennis May Roach, and Nancy Joe Lee. The witnesses went into detail about the events, up to and including the death of each of them. It took the jury of twelve men, eight of them fathers, only a little more than one hour and only four ballots to find Thacker guilty of murder.

1997: San Antonio Doctor Sends Teen Home with Hole in her Uterus

Sixteen-year-old Maureen Espinoza underwent a safe, legal abortion at a doctor's office in San Antonio on March 28, 1997. During the abortion, the doctor punctured Maureen's uterus, but didn't note this in her medical records or say anything to her about it, indicating that he simply didn't notice. Maureen was sent home. 

On April 3, she went to the emergency room at Northeast Baptist Hospital. Over the ensuing days, doctors there performed two surgeries to try to save her life, but to no avail. She died on April 15, 1997.

Abortion rights organizations would assert that, while tragic, Maureen's death was just a case of "all surgery has risks." But since roughly 90% of abortions before legalization were done by doctors, the same "all surgery has risks" logic still would have applied.

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