Friday, January 22, 2021

January 22: Safe and Legal in California

In June of 1967, then-Governor Ronald Reagan signed a bill legalizing abortion in California. The earlier law, passed in 1861, had allowed abortion only if intended to save the mother's life. The 1967 law allowed abortions in case of the mother's purported physical or mental health or for young teens pregnant through rape or incest. The mental health provision essentially allowed abortion on demand, since the woman could simply assert that she would kill herself were she not permitted the abortion. No actual mental health assessment was necessary. Abortions had to be performed by qualified physicians in an accredited hospital and could only be performed up to 20 weeks. The bill also allowed the establishment of dedicated abortion hospitals.

One of the beneficiaries of the new law was 26-year-old Kathryn Strong. On January 21, 1972, she went to Civic Center Hospital in Oakland, California for a legal abortion that was to be performed by Dr. Harold Van Maren. I have not been able to determine the grounds for Kathryn's abortion. During the procedure, her uterus was perforated. According to her medical records, she suffered extensive hemorrhage and shock. She died the following day, leaving behind a three-year-old son. It's difficult to judge if Kathryn's death was due to malpractice, since perforation was a known complication which could happen even if the abortion were performed with care, but, of course, could also be caused by carelessness. 

Watch Legal but not Safe on YouTube.

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