Wednesday, September 14, 2016

From Colonial Times to the 1990s.

A Drawn-Out Colonial-Era Abortion

Sarah Grosvenor, age 19, died in Pomfret, Connecticut on September 14, 1742 after an abortion perpetrated by Dr. John Hallowell. Sarah wanted to marry the baby's father, Amasa Sessions, but he pressured her to go through with an abortion.

Beginning in mid-July, Sarah tried abortifacients given to her by a seedy local doctor named John Hallowell. The abortifacients only succeeded in making her ill. Hallowell gave various concoctions to Sarah over several a period of about two weeks before finally using instruments on August 2. Two days later, Sarah expelled a dead baby, a girl about half the size of a full-term newborn. Sarah's sister buried the baby in the woods. Sarah seemed to rally at first, but became progressively more ill, finally dying on September 14.

Chicago Abortions in the 1920s

The Notorious Dr. Lucy Hagenow

On September 14, 1925, 19-year-old Elizabeth Welter died in the Chicago office of Dr. Lucy Hagenow from complications of an abortion performed that day. Elizabeth, who worked as a clerk, had gone to Chicago from her home of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, a few weeks before her death.

Lawrence Vail was identified by the coroner as responsible for the pregnancy, and the coroner recommended his arrest. The coroner also recommended the arrest of Dr. Hagenow. However, because Vail refused to give a statement, police were unable to gather enough evidence to arrest her.

Headshot of a white woman in late middle-age, with unkempt dark hair and a scowling, unpleasant facial expression
Dr. Lucy Hagenow
Like many physicians, especially female physicians, Hagenow was a popular Chicago abortionist. Elizabeth was one of the last Chicago abortion deaths attributed to Dr. Lucy Hagenow, aka Dr. Louise Hagenow. The others include:

Hagenow had set up shop in the more abortion-genial Chicago after being repeatedly prosecuted for abortion deaths in San Francisco. The first young woman, Louise Derchow, died in 1886. Annie Dories and Abbie Richards died in 1888. There were two other fishy deaths -- Emma Dep, whose abortion death Hagenow sloughed off as having been self-induced, and Franz Krone, an elderly man whose cash and valuables vanished as he died in Hagenow's hospital.

A Lay Abortionist With a Physician Accomplice

On September 14, 1928, 20-year-old Stella Wallenberg, a bindery worker, died from a criminal abortion performed in Chicago. Loretta Rybicki, identified as a "massaguer", was held by the coroner for murder by abortion. Dr. Nicholas Kalinowski was held as an accessory. Rybicki was indicted for felony murder on November 15.

It was not unusual for a lay abortionist to have a physician as an accomplice. Such physicians would do things such as train the lay abortionist, supply instruments and drugs, and provide aftercare if a woman suffered complications.

Safe and Legal in Philadelphia

Rhonda Rollinson, age 32, underwent a safe, legal abortion by Dr. Jay I. Levin at Malcom Polis's Philadelphia Women's Center September 3, 1992. The abortion attempt was unsuccessful. Rhonda was then sent home, with instructions to return on September 12 to try again.

Rhonda experienced such severe pain, dizziness, fever, and discharge that on September 10 she sought emergency care at a hospital. She was suffering "severe non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema consistent with adult respiratory distress syndrome." Doctors did a laparoscopy, dilation and evacuation, abdominal hysterectomy, and splenectomy, to no avail. Rhonda died on September 14. The autopsy revealed a perforation from her vagina into the uterine cavity, sepsis, disseminated intravascular coagulopathy, non-bacterial thrombotic endocarditis, pulmonary infarctions, and dysplastic kidney.

The suit filed by Rhonda's survivors also charged the facility and Polis with hiring Levin despite his lack of competence, failure to properly supervise his work, violation of applicable laws and regulations, lack of informed consent, failure to give proper post-operative instructions, and failure "to respond to the requests of [Rhonda] and her family for post-operative medical advice."

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