Monday, March 08, 2021

March 7: Fatal Abortion at Birthing Center

SUMMARY: Gloria Jeanie Small, age 34, died March 7, 1978 after an abortion performed by Ronald Tauber at his Orlando Birthing Center in Orlando, FL.

Dr. Ronald Tauber considered himself a maverick. Tauber was a risk-taker. He lost his medical privileges over an abortion he'd performed at Florida Hospital. The administration wasn't too upset that the baby in question had been between 23 and 24 weeks of gestation -- teetering on the cusp between Constitutionally protected second-trimester abortions and illegal third-trimester abortions. Rather, he had raised the ire of the hospital administrators, as one said, because he had performed the abortion on the medical ward. As an administrator said, "There was the possibility of delivering a live fetus and the nurses were afraid to work the case. It also would have been a problem to put the patient on the obstetrical floor where babies are born... the nurses here were very upset about the entire situation and Dr. Tauber didn't settle the problem."

Long story short: The problem wasn't the age of the fetus Tauber aborted. It was that he put the nurses in a bad situation and the administration backed the nurses.

Shortly after losing his privileges at Florida Hospital, he lost his privileges and position at Orlando General Hospital. He had been Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Tauber said that the move was part of a conspiracy between the two hospitals to persecute him for performing late second-trimester abortions at Florida Hospital. Orlando General Hospital's president, however, said, "Dr. Tauber was suspended from our staff because he didn't meet the standards of practice as held by this hospital."

Tauber responded by opening the Orlando Birthing Center in Orlando, Florida. Tauber said that he wanted to provide a more family-centered and lower-cost birthing experience. Though he lacked privileges to admit any of his patients to a fully-equipped hospital, he said that he had arrangements with local physicians who did have privileges and would admit any of his patients who needed such care. All might have gone well had he stuck with delivering living babies. But he also decided that he was just as interested in making sure fetuses came out dead as in helping them emerge alive. As a space to do the abortions, as well as tubal ligations and C-sections, Tauber converted a concrete building adjacent to the gracious birthing center into a surgical ward.

Tauber's birthing center, like his last abortion at Florida Hospital, danced in a gray zone of legality. Tauber intended to keep fewer than three patients at a time overnight, and thus his center didn't qualify as a hospital. He also didn't fall under the category for ambulatory surgical centers. A consultant for the Florida Health and Rehabilitative Services Office of Licensure and Certification said, "As long as Tauber says his facility is a doctor's office, we have no jurisdiction."

And it was into the gray zone that Gloria Jeanie Small walked one spring day.

Gloria, a 34-year-old mother of six, went to 
Ronald Tauber for a safe and legal abortion. Despite Gloria's obesity, asthma, chronic lung disease, and family history of high blood pressure, Tauber elected to perform the 15-week abortion at his Orlando Birthing Center on March 6, 1978.

Gloria's uterus was punctured in the abortion. Tauber packed Gloria's uterus with medical gauze, which appeared to have controlled the bleeding. However, the next day he removed the packing and the hemorrhage resumed.

Tauber did not transfer Gloria to a hospital until 30 hours after she had been injured. , and died despite an emergency hysterectomy. The medical examiner said that Gloria's medical history should have precluded performing an abortion in an outpatient setting. The medical board faulted him with failing to transfer to a hospital as soon as he'd had the bleeding stabilized with packing, and with trying to remove the packing in a setting where there was no blood available for a transfusion. A court-appointed panel found Tauber negligent in Gloria's death.

The repercussions for the 31-year-old Tauber were astonishing, given the legality of Gloria's abortion. He was dismissed from the staff of two hospitals, had his medical license suspended, and was charged with manslaughter. However, I have found no record that the case ever went to trial.

Gloria, like other Black women, faced a higher risk of abortion death than a white woman.

Newly added sources:

No comments: