Sunday, July 12, 2020

From Mysterious in 1889 to Safe and Legal in 1978

Unclear Circumstances in Chicago, 1889

On July 12, 1889, 24-year-old Annie Doran, from Traverse City, Michigan, died suddenly in Chicago. 
Annie had come to Chicago about two weeks earlier, and had asked her sister to accompany her to visit friends in Cadillac, Michigan. They stayed for three days, Annie's sister said. 

Annie's brother-in-law, a former county sheriff, pushed for an investigation. The coroner's inquest concluded that she had bled to death from an abortion, possibly self-induced. News coverage, however, indicated that a physician, Dr. McMullen, was believed to have provided Annie with abortifacients. However, McMullen indicated that he was in New York attending a medical conference at the time.

Annie's sister said that she had been unaware that her sister had been pregnant. Mrs. Hansen, who ran the boarding house where Annie died, also said that she'd known nothing about Annie being pregnant.

The crime scene was described in the Homicide in Chicago database as a "Medical facility", with the additional notes, "Midwife, Abortion place" and "Clinic (e.g. abortion facility)". This lends credence to the idea that Annie had visited some sort of doctor or midwife for the purpose of an abortion.

Two Doctors in Oklahoma, 1918

Druggist John A. Sims of Stigler, Oklahoma, was charged in the abortion murder of 18- or 20-year-old telephone operator Grace Malone in 1918. Simms was believed to be responsible for Grace's pregnancy as well as for arranging the abortion, though not present when it was perpetrated on July 11 at the home of her sister, Mrs. Cynthia Vasser.

Cynthia stated that she had sterilized the instruments in question by boiling them in water. She didn't know what they were called, but said that one resembled scissors without blades. She said that Dr. W. W. Aiken of Muskogee perpetrated the abortion, assisted by another physician that neither she nor another witness were able to positively identify. The witnesses could, however, identify Dr. L. D. Bruton as a physician that Aiken called in at some point to help him in providing care to Grace.

Grace died there the following day, July 12. The original death certificate attributed her death to "heart failure," but an autopsy found internal lacerations.

Aiken and Bruton were charged with murder in Grace's death, as was Sims, after Grace's father, O. E. Malone, filed a complaint against them. Both Grace's father and sister said that Grace had originally gone to Dr. T. B. Turner of Stigler, OK to ask him to perform an abortion. Only after he refused did she go to Muskogee and arrange for Aiken to do the abortion.

During pre-trial proceedings, Grace's father ran out of the courtroom shouting that somebody needed to be punished for his daughter's death. He was taken to the county attorney's office, where he was able to regain his composure.

Sims died, reportedly from "nervous collapse," before his case went to trial. Aiken and Bruton had also been charged with murder in Grace's death, but charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence to secure a conviction after Sims' death.

Abortion-on-Demand Unleashed in New York

Pearl Schwier, age 42, was 20 weeks pregnant when she sought a safe, legal abortion under New York state's new law, at St. Luke's hospital in New York City.

She was brought into the operating room on July 6, 1970 for a hysterotomy abortion, which is simply a c-section in which the intention is to allow the baby to die rather than to deliver him or her alive. It was performed under general anesthesia.

About 45 minutes into the procedure, Pearl had a reaction to the anesthesia and never regained consciousness, dying on July 12, leaving her husband, John, a widower.*

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 Pearl, 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. The following include women noted by public health officials from the mid-1970 legalization for a two year period ending in mid-1972:

  • 1970: Carmen Rodriguez, salt solution intended to kill the fetus accidentally injected into her bloodstream; Barbara Riley, sickle-cell crisis triggered by abortion recommended by doctor due to her sickle cell disease; "Amanda" Roe, sent back to her home in Indiana with an untreated hole poked in her uterus; Maria Ortega, fetus shoved through her uterus into her pelvic cavity then left there; "Kimberly" Roe, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • 1971: "Amy" Roe, massive pulmonary embolism; "Andrea" Roe, overwhelming infection; "Sandra" Roe, committed suicide due to post-abortion remorse; "Anita" Roe, bled to death in her home during process of outpatient saline abortion; Margaret Smith,  hemorrhage from multiple lacerations during outpatient hysterotomy abortion; "Annie" Roe,  cardiac arrest during anesthesia; "Audrey" Roe, cardiac arrest during abortion; "Vicki" Roe,  post-abortion infection; "April" Roe, injected with saline for outpatient abortion, went into shock and died; "Barbara" Roe, cardiac arrest after saline injection for abortion; "Tammy" Roe, massive post-abortion infection; Carole Schaner, hemorrhage from multiple lacerations during outpatient hysterotomy abortion; "Beth" Roesaline injection meant to kill fetus accidentally injected into her bloodstream
  • 1972: "Roseann" Roe, vomiting with seizures causing pneumonia after saline abortion; "Connie" Roe, cardiac arrest during abortion; "Julie" Roe, holes torn in her uterus and bowel; "Robin" Roe, lingering abortion complications; "Roxanne" Roe, given overdose of abortion sedatives; "Danielle" Roe, air in her bloodstream
Screwed-up Anesthesia, 1978

In 1978, Twenty-seven-year-old Gail Mazo went to Mt. Sinai in New York for an abortion, because she had ulcerative colitis. While she was under general anesthesia for the abortion, Gail began to vomit, and breathed the vomit into her lungs. The material in her lungs caused  complications that killed Gail on July 12.

Gail's survivors filed suit against the anesthesiologist for failure to recognize that Gail was a high-risk patient and to treat her accordingly. The family and the doctor eventually settled out of court for $800,000 ($3.15 million in 2020 dollars).

*New article covering Pearl's death:

"Health Board Devers Action on Abortion Regulations," New York Daily News, July 22, 1970

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