Friday, January 22, 2021

January 22: A Former Criminal Abortionist Goes Safe and Legal in Texas

The death of 22-year-old Vanessa Preston seems to be a case of "all surgery has risks."  Unlike Jesse Ketchum, Benjamin Munson, and Milan Vuitch, the erstwhile criminal abortionist who treated Vanessa didn't run amok with slovenliness as soon as the threat of immediate imprisonment was off the table. If I'm willing to grant that the doctor and his staff meant well in performing the abortion in the first place, I really can't fault them for what happened to Vanessa.

Headshot of a very earnest-looking bearded and bespectacled white man, past middle age
Curtis Boyd
Dr. Curtis Wayne Boyd, proud member and co-founder of the prestigious National Abortion Federation, once told his fellows at a meeting that he'd decided to take up abortion because his wife had nearly died while he was in medical school after the couple had arranged an illegal abortion. He'd actually started out in the 1960s performing criminal abortions.

Vanessa, a day-care worker, went with her husband to Curtis Boyd's Fairmount Center in Dallas on January 22, 1980 for a 16-week abortion. During the procedure, Vanessa suffered multiple vaginal punctures -- not the kind of injury likely to prove fatal. However, before Boyd could remove the placenta, Vanessa went into a grand mal seizure and then into cardiac arrest.

To the credit of Boyd and the Fairmount staff, emergency procedures were immediately instituted. They summoned an ambulance and made appropriate and effective effects at resuscitation while waiting for EMS. 

During exploratory surgery at the hospital, during which 24 units of blood were administered to try to stop her circulatory system from collapsing, Vanessa died. 

An autopsy revealed that Vanessa's uncontrollable bleeding had been caused by an amniotic fluid embolism (AFE - amniotic fluid in the mother's bloodstream) and disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC - a blood clotting disorder) during the abortion. When Boyd's staff resuscitated Vanessa, they caused a small laceration of her liver. This is typical in even properly performed CPR, and is not usually life-threatening. 

However, because of the DIC, Vanessa's blood couldn't clot, and she bled to death from the liver laceration. 

Since second-trimester evacuation abortions were still new at the time, Boyd and his staff didn't realize that there was a risk of DIC. To Boyd's credit, he reported Vanessa's death to the Centers for Disease Control and wrote a medical journal article warning other abortion practitioners that DIC could occur during second-trimester evacuation abortions.

However, evidence is that Boyd's quality of care did eventually deteriorate over the years. His late-term abortion clinic in New Mexico has been accused of providing substandard care resulting in the death of Keisha Marie Atkins in 2017.

Watch When All Efforts Fail on YouTube.

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