Saturday, July 18, 2020

Dead Before Day's End, Atlanta, 1979

Geneva Colton, age 21, a mother of two, wanted to stay off welfare, her friend, Joy Fisher, told the Atlanta Constitution. She was a full time meter maid and school crossing guard for the Cochran, GA, police department and worked part-time at a restaurant. "She just felt she could not support another child without going back on welfare." Geneva, Joy said, had nearly completed her studies to get her GED and would have taken thjude last two tests in September. "She wanted that certificate so she could become a certified policewoman."

Joy supported Geneva's choice, and drove her friend to Northside Family Planning Service in Atlanta on July 18, 1979. They left Cochran at 6:10 a.m. and talked about Geneva's two little boys during the trip. They were about ten minutes late for the 9 a.m. appointment. Joy even helped Geneva to pay for the procedure, performed at 10 weeks of pregnancy.

"She was a unique individual in that she was a young black woman with two children who could have had a relatively carefree life on welfare. But she elected to fight it, and she was pulling herself up by herself with no help really from anybody much except the friends around her who loved her," Joy said.

It was 4:00 p.m. before Geneva was discharged. "She was obviously in pain coming back, and I stopped once to buy a pillow to make her more comfortable," Joy said. "She appeared to be having abdominal cramping, which they had told her she would experience."

Joy dropped Geneva off at a friend's house in Cochran at about 7:30 p.m. About an hour later, Joy said, the friend called and said that Geneva had been taken to the emergency room at Bleckley County Hospital.

A hospital spokesman told the Constitution that Geneva had no vital signs on arrival. She was pronounced dead at 9:30 p.m. after attempts to resuscitate her failed. The hospital contacted the Centers for Disease Control to report Geneva's death. Geneva was the fifth legal abortion death reported in Georgia since the 1973 Supreme Court decision, Roe vs. Wade, which struck down nearly all limits on abortion practice in the United States. Dr. George Rubin of the CDC said that those five deaths could be considered a "rash" of deaths.

The autopsy found that Geneva's uterus had been perforated. She had bled to death. A jury awarded Geneva's two young sons, ages 4 and 7 at the time of her death, $225,000 in a malpractice suit. ($600,000 in 2020 dollars.) Both the clinic and Dr. Lawrence Cohen were named in the suit. The boys ended up under the guardianship of the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services.

Northside was eventually sued by their malpractice insurer because they'd allowed one of their abortionists to continue to perform surgery even though his manual dexterity had deteriorated due to multiple sclerosis. The suit by the insurer also alleged failure to meet state health standards, failure to have enough nurses on duty, failure to have proper on-call procedures, and lack of a professional director of medical services.

The clinic where Geneva's fatal abortion was performed seems to be the same clinic where Catherine Pierce underwent her fatal abortion in 1989.

Geneva's death also highlights a sad reality: According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a Black woman is nearly twice as likely to end up on the abortion table than a white woman, and once she's on that table she's significantly more likely to end up dead. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 35% of abortions are performed on white women and about 38% on Black women.  Of the 95 legal abortion deaths for which I've been able to determine the woman's race, 47% were Black woman and only 30% were white women. (Asian women were 3% and Hispanic women 19%.) 

Black women seem to fare even worse at Planned Parenthood than at abortion clinics in general. Look at the proportion of minority women among the Planned Parenthood abortion deaths since the year 2000 that I've learned about:

CreeErwinLarge.pngCree Erwin-Sheppard July 3, 2016 Kalamazoo, MI, Black

TonyaReavesLarge.jpgTonya Reaves July 21, 2012  Chicago, IL, Black

Roselle Owens April 11, 2009  New York, NY, Black


Edrica Goode February 14, 2007 Riverside, CA, Black

HollyPattersonLarge.jpgHolly Patterson September 17, 2003 Hayward, CA, White

Hoa Thuy "Vivian" Tran December 29, 2003 Costa Mesa, CA, Asian

DianaLopezLarge.jpeDiana Lopez February 28, 2002 Los Angeles, CA, presumed Hispanic

Of the seven I know about since 2000, only one is white, one is Asian, one is most likely Hispanic, and the other four are Black. That's more than half -- and all four are the most recent.

Cue crickets waiting for Black Lives Matter to start caring.


New Sources on Geneva's death:
  • "Autopsy Blames Abortion For Death Of Cochran Woman," Atlanta Journal and Constitution, July 21, 1979
  • "$225,000 awarded in death," Atlanta Constitution, August 13, 1982

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