Sunday, July 19, 2020

Two Beneficiaries of Abortion Liberalization

The first two deaths commemorated today were of women who took advantage of their states repealing anti-abortion laws prior to the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision which struck down every abortion law in the nation in 1973. 

New York, 1970

Carmen Rodriguez was 31 years old when she underwent a 14-week saline abortion at Lincoln Hospital in New York City. A saline abortion was performed by injecting a strong, sterile salt solution into the amniotic fluid. The fetus would then swallow and inhale the fluid, causing internal bleeding. After the fetus died, the woman would go into labor.

Carmen had a history of rheumatic heart disease. After the saline was injected, it got into Carmen's blood stream. This caused acute pulmonary edema -- fluid accumulation in the lungs -- and Carmen went into a coma from which she never recovered. She died on July 19, 1970, leaving behind a husband along with her children.

After Carmen's death, a militant Puerto Rican group, The Young Lords, swung into action. They pointed out that doctors at Lincoln Hospital knew that Carmen had heart problems and failed to take proper precautions -- a very valid claim. After all, saline abortions had long been known to be risky to the woman's heart.

Merle Goldman, spokeswoman of an abortion advocacy organization, did not share The Young Lords' outrage. Ms. Goldman said she hoped that Carmen's death wouldn't deter other women from undergoing abortions. She touted abortion's reputed safety and stressed that her group was lobbying against proposed health department regulation of abortion practice.

New York City Chief Medical Examiner Milton Helpern, on the other hand, expressed concern that ill-equipped and poorly-staffed freestanding legal abortion facilities were posing a danger to women. 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 Carmen, 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:

  • 1970: Pearl, cardiac arrest during abortion; Barbara, sickle-cell crisis triggered by abortion; "Linda", sent back to her home in Indiana with a hole poked in her uterus; Maria, fetus shoved through her uterus into her pelvic cavity; "Kimberly", cardiac arrest during abortion
  • 1971: "Amy", massive pulmonary embolism; "Andrea", overwhelming infection; "Sandra", committed suicide due to post-abortion remorse; "Anita", bled to death during outpatient saline abortion; Margaret, hemorrhage from multiple lacerations during outpatient hysterotomy; "Annie", cardiac arrest during anesthesia; Edith, cardiac arrest during abortion; "Vicki", post-abortion infection; "April", went into shock during saline abortion; "Barbara", cardiac arrest after saline injection for abortion; "Tammy", massive post-abortion infection; Carole, hemorrhage from multiple lacerations during outpatient hysterotomy; "Beth", saline accidentally injected into bloodstream; "Roseann", vomiting with seizures causing pneumonia after saline abortion
  • 1972: "Connie", cardiac arrest during abortion; "Julie", holes torn in her uterus and bowel; "Robin", lingering abortion complications; "Roxanne", overdose of abortion sedatives; Pamela, air in her bloodstream; "Wendy", saline accidentally injected into her bloodstream; "Sara", infection from retained fetal tissue
The bulk of these deaths were published in a report by the New York Health Department covering the period from June of 1970 through June of 1972, which is why those women are only identified by pseudonyms. 

California, 1971

Betty Hines was 21 years old when she was checked into Doctors Hospital in California for a safe, legal abortion to be performed by Dr. A. Mitchell on July 19, 1971. Mitchell had been her physician for three or four years. Betty was eight weeks pregnant. There didn't seem to be anything wrong during the procedure. Betty was transferred to the recovery room, when she suddenly went into cardio-respiratory arrest.

Mitchell theorized that perhaps Betty had died because of a bad vial of Inovar, because the next patient who was injected from that vial also went into cardiac arrest but was successfully resuscitated. Betty's autopsy, however, found no trace of Inovar in her system. A toxicology check was also done on the vial of medication, and found nothing wrong with the Inovar. Betty's death was attributed to massive intravascular sickling due to underlying sickle cell disorder. Other women who died of sickle cell crisis triggered by abortion include Margaret Davis and Barbara Hoppert.

Other women who died from safe, legal abortions in California in advance of Roe vs. Wade include:

  • Pre-1970: Cheryl, lingering complications; Stella, allergic reaction to antibiotic to treat sepsis; Erika: cardiac arrest during abortion; Elva, details unavailable
  • 1970: Denise, amniotic fluid embolism; Sara, cardiac arrest during hysterotomy abortion; Sharon, died in Los Angeles; "Felicia," infection from saline abortion; Katherine, sepsis after saline abortion
  • 1971: LaSandra, cardiac arrest; Cassandra, bled to death; Janet, infection from mangled fetus left in her uterus; Doris, hemorrhage after failure to diagnose ectopic pregnancy; "Mary," bled to death
  • 1972: Twila, cerebral hemorrhage during saline abortion; Natalie, infection after saline abortion; Gwen, saline injected into blood stream; Kathryn, bled to death from perforated uterus
Long story short, legalization didn't stop abortion deaths. It just shifted their legal status. Illegal is in purple, legal is in orange:

Additional source:
"Health Board Defers Action on Abortion Regulations," New York Daily News, July 22, 1970

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