Friday, January 20, 2017

Abortion Deaths: 1990, 1971, 1971, 1910, and 1845

Second Death in Six Years

Ingar Weber, age 28, died January 26, 1990, in a Louisiana hospital. She had been treated for acute kidney failure after a safe and legal abortion performed at Delta Women's Clinic in Baton Rouge on January 20, 1990. Ingar's family sued the clinic and its doctors, Richardson P. Glidden and Thomas Booker. They faulted the doctors with failing to diagnose Ingar's kidney problems, or her deteriorating physical condition, before, during, or after the abortion. Ingar was transported to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, where she died.

Delta had also been sued following the death of another abortion patient. This woman was most likely 27-year-old Sheila Hebert, who died after an abortion on June 6, 1984.

A Lack of Follow-Up Care

The survivors of 21-year-old Linda Fondren sued after her death. Linda had a safe and legal abortion performed by Mohammad Pourtabib at Pre-Birth in Chicago on New Years Day, 1974. She suffered bleeding, but Pourtabib did not provide follow-up care.

Linda was taken by ambulance to Michael Reese Hospital, in shock and needing emergency care. They would not admit her, but instead sent her to Cook County Hospital, where doctors performed an emergency hysterectomy. Linda remained hospitalized at Cook County. On January 16, doctors tried to drain fluids from Linda's chest and inadvertently punctured her spleen.

Linda died on January 20 from "hemoperitoneum with splenic rupture following hysterectomy and earlier dilatation and curettage." She left behind a small child.

A Beneficiary of New York's Abortion Law

"Andrea" was 26 years old when she underwent a newly legalized abortion at a New York City abortion facility on January 12, 1971.

After her abortion, Andrea contracted an infection. Her system was unable to fight the infection, and she died on January 20, 1971, leaving behind six children.

The 1970 liberalization of abortion had made New York an abortion mecca until the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling that abortionists could legally set up shop in any state of the union. In addition to "Andrea," these are the women I know of who had the dubious benefit of dying from the newfangled safe-and-legal kind of abortion in pre-Roe New York:

  • Pearl Schwier, July, 1970, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • Carmen Rodriguez, July, 1970, salt solution intended to kill the fetus accidentally injected into her bloodstream
  • Barbara Riley, July, 1970, sickle-cell crisis triggered by abortion recommended by doctor due to her sickle cell disease
  • "Amanda" Roe, September, 1970, sent back to her home in Indiana with an untreated hole poked in her uterus
  • Maria Ortega, October, 1970, fetus shoved through her uterus into her pelvic cavity then left there
  • "Kimberly" Roe, December, 1970, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • "Amy" Roe, January, 1971, massive pulmonary embolism
  • "Sandra" Roe, April, 1971, committed suicide due to post-abortion remorse
  • "Anita" Roe, May, 1971, bled to death in her home during process of outpatient saline abortion
  • Margaret Smith, June, 1971, hemorrhage from multiple lacerations during outpatient hysterotomy abortion
  • "Annie" Roe, June, 1971, cardiac arrest during anesthesia
  • "Audrey" Roe, July, 1971, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • "Vicki" Roe, August, 1971, post-abortion infection
  • "April" Roe, August, 1971, injected with saline for outpatient abortion, went into shock and died
  • "Barbara" Roe, September, 1971, cardiac arrest after saline injection for abortion
  • "Tammy" Roe, October, 1971, massive post-abortion infection
  • Carole Schaner, October, 1971, hemorrhage from multiple lacerations during outpatient hysterotomy abortion
  • "Beth" Roe, December, 1971, saline injection meant to kill fetus accidentally injected into her bloodstream
  • "Roseann" Roe, February, 1971, vomiting with seizures causing pneumonia after saline abortion
  • "Connie" Roe, March, 1972, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • "Julie" Roe, April, 1972, holes torn in her uterus and bowel
  • "Robin" Roe, May, 1972, lingering abortion complications
  • "Roxanne" Roe, May, 1972, given overdose of abortion sedatives
  • "Danielle" Roe, May, 1972, air in her bloodstream
Illegal in Chicago

On January 20, 1910, homemaker Elizabeth Lambacher, age 27, died at her Robby Street home in Chicago from septic peritonitis caused by an abortion. A nurse or midwife named Mrs. Hopp was indicted by a grand jury. The source document does not indicate that the case ever went to trial.

A Forced Abortion in a House of Ill Repute

Mary Ackerly of White Plains, New York, was the uneducated daughter of Sutton Ackerly, a shoemaker, and his disreputable wife Martha.. From the time she was around 9 years old, Mary's family had begun sending her to live with other families, for reasons that are presumed to be understood by newspaper readers of the time. Mary didn't take well to her peripatetic life, it seems, since she rarely stayed with one family longer than a few months.

At the age of 19, Mary went to work in the home of Mrs. C. Nelson, near Sing-Sing. Mrs. Nelson had a married son, Harry, who lived nearby. Mary  went to New York with Harry Nelson, who had promised that if she went with him he would pay her $27 that he owed her. Instead, Nelson set Mary up to room at a "house of ill fame" at 174 Broom Street. There, on the night of December 14, 1845, one of the women who lived at the brothel told Mary that somebody was up in the attic room to see her. When Mary got upstairs she found Nelson, along with Dr. Seth Shove, who served as a sort of house doctor of the "house of assignation."

Nelson told Mary that Shove was there to perform an abortion on her. Mary said that she tried to get out of the room, but Nelson and Shove had locked the door, pushed her onto the bed, and blown out the candle. Mary didn't see what instrument the appropriately-named Shove used on her, but what he did was incredibly painful. Mary told her mother that she had screamed for help but nobody came. Shove finished what he was doing then he and Nelson left.

Mary Kearney, a girl who lived at her house, said that in the evening of Tuesday, December 15, Mary went into labor, delivering the baby about 2:00 in the morning of the 16th. Miss Kearney found the baby left on a marble-topped table. Seeing the baby move its hand and foot, Miss Kearney placed the child in a warm place by the stove hearth, where it died about half an hour later.

Other than doctors attending her from time to time, Misss Kearney said, Mary Ackerly had no visitors after the birth and death of her baby. After the night of the abortion, Mary never saw Harry Nelson again. Mary sickened and suffered wretchedly during the ensuing weeks, her condition deteriorating. She was sent home some time during the first week of January, 1846.  Over the ensuring days, Mary had a dark red, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, and frequent bouts of vomiting. 

At Mary's request, she was visited by a minister every other day who prayed with her and urged her to clear her conscience. As it became clearer to Mary that she wasn't going to recover, she wept and told her mother all about her pregnancy and the abortion.

Dr. William Belcher, the family's usual doctor, tended to Mary three times before her death.  Dr. Belcher made it plain to Mary that she was dying, and she told him the same story she had told her mother about Harry Nelson, Dr. Shove, the unfamiliar house she'd been taken to, and the forced abortion. She was dead by around 6:00 on the morning of January 20.

Belcher and another doctor performed an autopsy, finding multiple adhesions around Mary's uterus. There were no signs of injury inside the uterus or vagina, but there were injuries causing fecal impaction and large abscesses around the bowel and bladder. Her uterus was enlarged and showed signs of recent pregnancy.

When Shove went to trial for Mary's death, an assortment of doctors testified that they'd known him well and respected him professionally. Some had seen Shove perform surgery and considered him to be skilled. The doctors also testified that for an abortion, the patient would have to be cooperative in order to carry it out. Both hands would be needed, so a doctor would not have spare hands to hold down a struggling patient. Mary's injuries, as described by Dr. Belcher, were not consistent with those that would happen if a qualified doctor was doing an abortion procedure. At no point did there seem to be the issue raised, nor answered, as to whether Mary's injuries were consistent with a skilled surgeon attempting to perform an abortion on a struggling woman.

As the jury went to deliberate whether Shove should be convicted of murder, manslaughter, or neither, they had to take into account:
  • whether Mary had been "quick with child," meaning that she had been able to feel the baby move and know that the baby was alive
  • whether she had gone to New York for the purpose of an abortion
  • whether she had consented to the abortion
  • whether Shove had indeed been the person who had perpetrated it
Much of this hinged on how much credibility the jury would give to the testimony of Mary's mother and of Dr. Belcher regarding what she had told them as she lay dying. Shove's attorney had brought forth many witnesses against the character of both Mary and her mother. Mary was described as a thief, a prostitute, and an arsonist. Both women were described of being of bad moral reputation and as utterly untrustworthy.

The judge told the jury that Martha Ackerly's credibility had been completely impeached, and hence, by implication, that they could discount anything she'd said. The judge also indicated that though Mary ordinarily would be considered of such bad character that they could dismiss her testimony as well, they could choose to give credibility to what she said on her deathbed under the presumption, common at the time, that people about to meet their Maker would want to do so having confessed all of their sins before doing so.

Some testimony also seemed to hinge on whether somebody had paid Mary's parents to make themselves scarce after Mary's death. The implication seems to be that the Ackerly family had been trying to blackmail Shove. Martha Ackerly said that Shove had given Mary some money, wages that had been due to her.

The defense arguments -- that Shove can't have been the one who had perpetrated the abortion because it had been done so sloppily, and that after all he was respectable and Mary and her family were disreputable and thus couldn't be believed -- worked. Shove was acquitted.

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