Thursday, June 30, 2022

June 30, 1982: Teen's Death Counted by State as Illegal Abortion

Seventeen-year-old Jennifer E. Suddeth underwent a safe and legal abortion performed by Dr. Franklin Henry "Frank" Robinson Sr. on June 30, 1982.

On the drive home to Cerritos, Jennifer bled heavily, alarming her boyfriend, 20-year-old John Fredzess. 

Fredzess said that he called the clinic repeatedly over the four hours after their return home, but staff would not put the call through to Robinson. One nurse, he said, admonished Fredzess to "be realistic" about how severely Jennifer was bleeding. By that time, Jennifer had bled through two pairs of sweat pants, two blankets, and a towel. At last, the boyfriend said, he was able to contact Robinson at another clinic in La Puente. He said that Robinson insisted that the bleeding was normal and instructed Fredzess to stop calling.

Robinson agreed that Fredzess had repeatedly called the clinic, but denied dismissing Jennifer's symptoms as no cause for concern. He said that he had  first told Fredzess to bring Jennifer back to the clinic, but Fredzess had said he was too tired to make the drive. Robinson said he then told Fredzess to either call 911 or drive Jennifer to the hospital himself. "I was practically pleading," he said. Fredzess, Robinson said, didn't want to go to the hospital or call 911 because then people would find out abortion the abortion. He said that when Fredzess stopped calling, he assumed that Jennifer was at the hospital being tended to. 

When Jennifer went into convulsions, Fredzess said, he called an ambulance. Paramedics arrived at the home to find Jennifer already dead. She had lost at least six quarts of blood. Police interviewed the weeping and hysterical Fredzess, then botched the investigation.  

Sgt. Miriam Travis, who had been called to the scene to investigate, did not collect any evidence, such as Jennifer's clothing, the towels, or the truck seat onto which Jennifer had reportedly bled so heavily. Travis took only four photographs at the death scene because she "ran out of film" and she later lost two of the photographs.

Robinson said he learned about Jennifer's death when four patrol cars and at least ten armed officers arrived at his clinic and he was booked for first-degree murder. He was held without bail for two days before he was finally released.

After posting bail, Robinson told the Los Angeles Time that Jennifer had been "perfectly fine" when she'd left his office. "She came to me for an abortion, and I gave her an abortion. I gave her the best surgical technique I can do... to call that murder is incomprehensible to me."

The charge was reduced to manslaughter. During the second week of the trial, Travis found a box of her mail which had accumulated at her original office after she had relocated to a different room. In that box were phone records from Fredzess's home. He had said that he'd first spoken to Robinson at his La Puente clinic shortly after 2:30 pm. However, phone records showed that the first call to the La Puente office was not placed until 4:39 pm, less than 45 minutes before paramedics pronounced Jennifer dead.

With the evidence more strongly supporting Robinson's version of events, he was acquitted. Nevertheless, the state of California nevertheless counted Jennifer's death as due to illegal abortion.

Robinson has since retired and moved to Tennessee.

Watch "Who is to Blame?" on YouTube.

Sources:





June 30, 1998: Slow Death After North Carolina Abortion

Kendra Paige McLeod, 22-year-old single mother of two, was working as a sales clerk at a grocery store in Clinton, North Carolina. She underwent an abortion at a clinic in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on June 12, 1998. 

She bled heavily after the abortion. The day after her abortion, she sought help at an emergency room. She had fainted three times by the time she got into the emergency room at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. 

Doctors at the hospital transfused Kendra with nine units of blood and performed surgery to try to save her life, to no avail. She died on June 30, at the age of 22. 

Her family lost a lawsuit against the hospital. Documents do not note if the family sued the abortion provider.

Sources:

  • “Jury says doctor didn’t cause woman’s death,” Fayetteville Observer, Sept. 13, 2001
  • North Carolina Death Indexes, 1908-2004

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

June 29, 1906: Midwife's Fatal Work in Chicago

Mrs. Johanna Faulner, a 40-year-old German immigrant, died June 29, 1906, at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Chicago, from complications of an abortion performed on June 24. Midwife Emily Redeniske was arrested in the death.

June 29, 1988: She Never Even Made it to the Hospital

Dawn Mendoza, a 28-year-old mother of two, underwent an abortion at the hands of Edward Rubin at Women's Medical Pavilion in Dobbs Ferry, New York, on June 29, 1988.

Her brother, who had accompanied her, was instructed to wait in a grassy park across the street from the clinic and return at 4 pm to take her home. When he returned the staff again told him to come back later. When he returned at 5:30 they told him that Dawn was dead.

Rubin had performed a D&C abortion on Daw, who then started screaming and gasping for breath. Staff tried unsuccessfully to revive her, but she died without ever being transferred to a hospital.

The medical examiner determined that she had died from amniotic fluid embolism, as evidenced by particles of placenta and amniotic fluid in her lungs.

Watch "Brother Returns to Clinic to Find Sister Dead" on YouTube.

Sources: Autopsy report #88-1488; and New York Post, July 4, 1989

June 29, 1939: Another Black Woman Dies in Harlem

According to New York death records, 22-year-old Mary Welch died at Harlem Hospital in Manhattan on June 29, 1939. Her cause of death was "acute endomeitritis streptococcic oepticemia, abortion probably induced." This would indicate a likely criminal abortion.

I've been unable to find any news coverage about Mary's death, perhaps because Mary was Black, and thus during that time considered less worthy of news coverage.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

June 28, 1946: Immigrant Dies at Harlem Hospital

According to the New York Index of Death Certificates, 17-year-old Alvena Clarke, a student, died at Harlem Hospital in Manhattan on June 28, 1946. Alvena, an immigrant from Jamaica, suffered a perforated uterus during an abortion and subsequently died of septicemia.

I've been unable to find newspaper coverage of Alvena's death. This might be because she was a young Black woman so her death was not considered important enough to cover in the newspaper. It might be because her abortion was performed legally due to some health problem she had. The fact that the abortion was not identified as criminal in the death records underscores this possibility.

Watch "Scant Information on 1946 Abortion Death" on YouTube.

June 28, 1900: Midwife or Nurse in Chicago

According to the Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database, on June 28, 1900, a woman only identified as "Mrs. Andre Jorgenson" died on the scene from an illegal abortion.

Mrs. Anna Pihlgren, whose occupation is listed as nurse or midwife, was arrested and held by the Coroner's Jury. A man identified as Andre Pihlgren in the source, but who was probably the dead woman's husband, was held as an accessory.

Note, please, that with issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good. 

Monday, June 27, 2022

June 27, 1934: Boon to Young Men, Death to Young Women

A bald, middle-aged white man wearing round, black-rimmed eyeglasses
Dr. Guy Brewer

Dr. Guy E. Brewer, at age 55, was a philanthropist and leading citizen in Graber, Oklahoma. 

Brewer was a quiet, small-town doctor, immensely popular for his benevolence in putting local young men through college. He even provided a home for them to live in.

Hermione Fowler, a 20-year-old coed studying science and literature at the Oklahoma A&M University, died at her Red Oak, Oklahoma home on June 27, 1934, nine days after an abortion perpetrated by Dr. Brewer. 

Hermione was one of six women to die after abortions perpetrated by Brewer.

The first charge filed against Brewer was for the death of Mrs. Doris Jones, a 20-year-old mother of two, who had died on April 11, 1935. Ruby Ford had died on April 1, 1934, prior even to Hermione's death. Wanda Lee Gray, age 20, Myrtle Rose, age 21, and Elizabeth Shaw, age 23, evidently died in early June of 1935.

Hermione Fowler
Brewer entered guilty pleas and sentenced to six concurrent four-year sentences. 

So beloved was Brewer that one victim's husband was fired from his job in retaliation for reporting Brewer to the police.

Brewer died on July 13, 1952, with his crimes evidently forgotten by everyone except his victims' families. His headstone reads "Dedicated by Doc's Boys."

Watch "Boon to Young Men, Death to Young Women" on YouTube.

Source:


Sunday, June 26, 2022

June 26, 1888: Death at a Maternity Hospital

On June 26, 1888, 16-year-old Annie Dorris died at Dr. Lucy Hagenow's "maternity hospital" in San Francisco. She was buried the following day based on a death certificate filed by Dr. Xavier Dodel, who claimed that he'd been called to tend to her at her home for chills and fever and had transferred her to Hagenow's care about two days before her death, when his treatment was not successful. “A autopsy held on the remains which were disinterred for the purpose, showed that death was the result of an abortion.”

Augusta had read in a German newspaper that “Mrs. Hagenow's hospital on Twelfth street was a good place,” so she took Annie there. “Mrs. Hagenow said that she would cure the girl for $30 and took her into a private room to examine her.” After Annie emerged, Hagenow charged her mother an additional $10, saying that she had damaged an instrument due to Anna's inability to lie still.

Three days later, Annie took to her bed, complaining of pains in her legs and back. According to Annie's father, Frederick, Hagenow came to the house to check on Annie. Hagenow took the girl into a side room, from which Frederick heard Annie cry out. Hagenow emerged and said that a "man doctor" had to be called in due to inflammation of the bowels and high fever. Hagenow left and returned with Dr. Xavier Dodel. The two of them went into the room with Annie, and again Frederick heard his daughter cry out. Dodel emerged from the room with bloody hands.

Upon his recommendation, Annie was removed to the "Maternity Home," where she died on the third day.

Augusta said that Hagenow's sister, Mrs. Seibert, told her that she'd taken her daughter to a “hell hole” and that “other persons had been murdered there.” Anna Hickert, who operated a bakery, said that she relayed to Hagenow that Seibert had told her that Hagenow ran “a murderous den,” but Hagenow had told Hickert not to relay this because her sister would deny having ever said any such thing.

As Augusta testified about her daughter's death, she “cried pitifully.” After being given time to regain her composure, Augusta, with her husband by her side, was asked about her encounter with Hagenow at the coroner's office. Augusta said that Hagenow told her to denied ever meeting her, or she (Hagenow) would end up doing 25 or 30 years at San Quentin. The coroner had chased Hagenow from the room.

Hagenow eventually made bail, but the San Francisco Chronicle noted, “The bond itself is a queer one. Although the signers qualify in the aggregate for $20,000 there is more than the faint suspicion afloat that it is a bond of straw.” Pretty fishy – perhaps in one case even fictitious – characters were putting their signatures on it. “When Mrs. Hagenow was released she ran to Dr. Dodel's cell and held a short conversation with him. It is quite probable that he will soon be out on bond if [Judge] Hornblower can be persuaded to accept the same kind of sureties for him as he did for his female companion." Hagenow stuck to her story that Annie had been deathly ill before she'd even been called in.

Three trials in the case led to three hung juries.

Hagenow was also implicated in the San Francisco abortion deaths of Louise Derchow and Abbia Richards, as well as for the suspicious death of Emma Dep at Hagenow's maternity home.

Hagenow relocated to Chicago and began piling up dead bodies there as well. She was implicated in numerous abortion deaths, including:

1892: Sophia Kuhn and Emily Anderson

1896: Hannah Carlson

1899: Marie Hecht

1905: May Putnam

1906: Lola Madison

1907: Annie Horvatich

1925: Lottie Lowy, Nina H. Pierce, Jean Cohen, Bridget Masterson, and Elizabeth Welter

1926: Mary Moorehead

The first death is one of a large batch that blew away my presumption that illegal abortionists would be quickly identified and shut down if they injured or killed women. Dr. Lucy Hagenow accumulated a shameful number of dead patients while spending very little time even in trouble, much less in prison, considering the toll her practice was taking.

Mrs. Dr. Hagenow

“Mrs. Dr. Hagenow, a former resident of San Jose, who gained unenviable notoriety in connection with the death of Louise Derchow in San Francisco about a year ago, is again in similar trouble.” 

On June 26, 1888, 16-year-old Annie Dorris died at Dr. Lucy Hagenow's "maternity hospital" in San Francisco. She was buried the following day based on a death certificate filed by Dr. Xavier Dodel, who claimed that he'd been called to tend to her at her home for chills and fever and had transferred her to Hagenow's care about two days before her death, when his treatment was not successful.

The baby's father was a young man named Cox who drowned in the San Francisco Bay the Christmas after Annie's death.

“A autopsy held on the remains which were disinterred for the purpose, showed that death was the result of an abortion.”

During the coroner's inquest, Annie's mother, Augusta, testified that in late July, Annie had come to her, "Troubled with what she thought was some female disease."  Augusta read in a German newspaper that “Mrs. Hagenow's hospital on Twelfth street was a good place,” so she took Annie there. “Mrs. Hagenow said that she would cure the girl for $30 and took her into a private room to examine her.” After Annie emerged, Hagenow charged her mother an additional $10, saying that she had damaged an instrument due to Anna's inability to lie still.

Three days later, Annie took to her bed, complaining of pains in her legs and back. According to Annie's father, Frederick, Hagenow came to the house to check on Annie. Hagenow took the girl into a side room, from which Frederick heard Annie cry out. Hagenow emerged and said that a "man doctor" had to be called in due to inflammation of the bowels and high fever. Hagenow left and returned with Dodel. The two of them went into the room with Annie, and again Frederick heard his daughter cry out. Dodel emerged from the room with bloody hands. Upon his recommendation, Annie was removed to the "Maternity Home," where she died on the third day.

Augusta said that Hagenow's sister, Mrs. Seibert, told her that she'd taken her daughter to a “hell hole” and that “other persons had been murdered there.” Anna Hickert, who operated a bakery, said that she relayed to Hagenow that Seibert had told her that Hagenow ran “a murderous den,” but Hagenow had told Hickert not to relay this because her sister would deny having ever said any such thing.

As Augusta testified about her daughter's death, she “cried pitifully.” After being given time to regain her composure, Augusta, with her husband by her side, was asked about her encounter with Hagenow at the coroner's office. Augusta said that Hagenow told her to denied ever meeting her, or she (Hagenow) would end up doing 25 or 30 years at San Quentin. The coroner had chased Hagenow from the room.

Dr. Lucy Hagenow

Hagenow eventually made bail, but the San Francisco Chronicle noted, “The bond itself is a queer one. Although the signers qualify in the aggregate for $20,000 there is more than the faint suspicion afloat that it is a bond of straw.” Pretty fishy – perhaps in one case even fictitious – characters were putting their signatures on it. “When Mrs. Hagenow was released she ran to Dr. Dodel's cell and held a short conversation with him. It is quite probable that he will soon be out on bond if [Judge] Hornblower can be persuaded to accept the same kind of sureties for him as he did for his female companion." Hagenow stuck to her story that Annie had been deathly ill before she'd even been called in.

Three trials in the case led to three hung juries.

Hagenow was also implicated in the San Francisco abortion deaths of  Abbia Richards, as well as for the suspicious death of Emma Dep at Hagenow's maternity home.

Hagenow relocated to Chicago, a city more tolerant of abortion quackery, and began piling up dead bodies there as well. She was implicated in numerous abortion deaths there, including:

1892: Sophia Kuhn and Emily Anderson

1896: Hannah Carlson

1899: Marie Hecht

1905: May Putnam

1906: Lola Madison

1907: Annie Horvatich (Hagenow was sentenced to prison for Annie's death, then released in 1924.)

1925: Lottie Lowy, Nina H. Pierce, Jean Cohen, Bridget Masterson, and Elizabeth Welter

1926: Mary Moorehead

Though she was sentenced to prison for the death of Mary Moorehead, when Hagenow appealed the Supreme Court of Illinois ordered a new trial in 1929. The judge, noting that there was no new evidence, dismissed the case, telling Hagenow, "You had better make your peace with God, Lucy Hagenow. I do not think your months on earth are many."

Hagenow, the Associated Press noted, was nearly deaf and "may not have heard. She muttered something, and shambled laboriously from the room."

As near as I can determine, Hagenow died September 26, 1933, in Norwood Park, Cook County, Illinois. Her occupation on her death record was given as "midwife."

Deaths of her patients must have been a common occurrence, since undertaker W. J. Freckleton, sent by one husband to collect the body of his wife for burial, testified that he had complained to Hagenow how difficult it was to get the body down the narrow staircase; Hagenow had replied that her usual undertaker never had any trouble getting bodies out.

Clearly, laws against abortion can only protect women if the local authorities care enough to enforce them. 

June 26, 1994: Bleeding Out by the Side of the Road

Pamela Jean Colson, age 31, was 12 weeks pregnant when friends drive her to Women's Medical Services in Pensacola, Florida, for a safe and legal abortion on Saturday, June 25, 1994. The abortion was performed by Dr. William Philip Keene.

Pamela bled heavily during the drive home. According to her friends, Pamela began having trouble breathing when they were about halfway home to Port St. Joe. She became unresponsive at around 7:30 p.m., so they pulled into the parking lot of Scottish Inn in Panama City. The hotel's manager said that two passers-by did CPR while Pamela's friends called for an ambulance. Somebody else attempted to wave down traffic to seek additional help.

When medics arrived they found Pamela in full cardiac and respiratory arrest. They took over her care and transported her to Bay Medical Center. Surgeons there performed an emergency hysterectomy in a vain attempt to save Pamela's life. She died shortly after midnight the following day.

Her autopsy showed: bloodstained fluid in chest and peritoneal space, and "extensive hematoma formation in the pelvic area with the peritoneum denuded from the left gutter area caudually." The surgeon who performed an emergency hysterectomy, trying to save Pamela's life, had removed her uterus at the site of the laceration "so that the laceration was a portion of the incision made to remove the uterus." Her uterus showed extensive hemorrhage and blood clots. Her uterine artery was also injured. Several of Pamela's ribs were fractured, apparently during attempts to resuscitate her; this is common in even properly performed CPR.

The cause of death was given as "irreversible shock from blood loss due to a perforated uterus occurring at the time of an elective abortion." William Keene was tentatively identified as having performed the abortion.

Pamela's fatal abortion was performed at the clinic where abortionist David Gun was shot dead.

After the investigation into Pamela's death, Keene was fired from Sarasota Women's Health Center, the other Florida clinic where he worked. The director of Women's Medical Service, where Pamela's fatal abortion was performed, on the other hand, pooh-poohed the idea of dismissing Keene. "Of course he's allowed to perform abortions. That's a ridiculous question. Complications occur all the time," clinic director Sandy Sheldon told the Tuscaloosa News. She insisted that Pamela had seemed fine, talking and eating, before being discharged from the clinic.

She also showed disdain for the press for covering Pamela's death, telling the Tampa Bay Times, "Patients die all the time, whether it's a gall bladder operation or a hernia or a tonsillectomy, and nobody cares. It's not front-page news. ..... Why is this different? We did everything we were supposed to do." It was evidently lost on her that even the notoriously abortion-friendly Centers for Disease Control long since stated that there was never any legitimate reason for an abortion patient to bleed to death. ("Fatal hemorrhage from legal abortion in the United States," Surgical Gynecology and Obstetrics, November, 1983) David Grimes, et. al., clearly said:

Deaths from hemorrhage associated with legal induced abortion should not occur. Yet hemorrhage was the third most frequent cause of death from legal abortion in the United States between 1972 and 1979.  .... Twenty-four women died from hemorrhage after legal abortion in the United States from 1972 to 1979.... Deaths from hemorrhage can be eliminated by preventing uterine trauma during abortion and by rapidly diagnosing and treating hemorrhage if it occurs.

Pamela's family didn't find out about her death until the following Tuesday because they were traveling at the time. Pamela's parents sued the clinic on behalf of themselves and Pamela's two motherless young children, but the case was dismissed because of the plaintiff attorney's failure to submit an investigation in a timely manner.

Watch "No Excuse But Plenty of Excuses" on YouTube.

Sources:

Saturday, June 25, 2022

June 25, 1911: Doctor Free to Kill Again

On June 25, 1911, 20-year-old Mrs. Anna Mueller died from a criminal abortion performed by Dr. George Lotz. Lotz was arrested July 5. He was indicted for felony murder.

Leslie Reagan, in her book "When Abortion Was a Crime," indicates that he was expelled from the Chicago Medical Society after admitting guilt in Anna's death, but there is no record that he served time for the crime. In fact, he was free and in Danville, Illinois in 1917, when he perpetrated a fatal attempted abortion on Matilda Tidrick.

Anna's abortion was typical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

Watch "Another Doctor Free to Kill Again" on YouTube.

Source: Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database

Friday, June 24, 2022

June 24, 1971: First Legal Abortion Death in Rockland County New York

Edith Clark traveled from her home in Newark, New Jersey to the Sparkhill, New York office of Dr. Robert Livingston to avail herself of the new law, for a first-trimester abortion on June 24, 1971.

Shortly after she was given an injection of Innovar for anesthesia, Edith went into cardiac arrest, and attempts to revive her failed. She left behind three children.

Edith was the first woman to die in New York's Rockland County from a newly legalized abortion. The second, 18-year-old Pamela Modugno, died in May of 1972 after an abortion in one of the many freestanding abortion facilities that opened immediately after New York decided to permit outpatient abortion-on-demand up to 24 weeks.

June 24, 1929: Two Doctors Arrested

On June 24, 1929, 19-year-old homemaker Winifred Mary Garver of South Bend, Indiana, underwent an abortion at the Chicago office of Dr. Anna Schultz, aka Rollins. Schultz was assisted by Dr. James White. Winifred died on June 27 at Chicago's Woodlawn Hospital. Winifred was white; both her abortionist and the assistant were Black. 

On June 27, both physicians were held by the coroner. Schultz was indicted for felony murder by a grand jury on October 6, 1930 and released on $10,000 bond. White was released on $5,000 bond. I've been unable to determine the outcome of the case.

Source: "Two Physicians Held," Palladium Item, June 27, 1929

June 24, 1882: Incest and Abortion in Michigan

On June 10, 1882, a wealthy 62-year-old farmer named James T. Phillips brought his daughter, 20-year-old Ruth Phillips, from their home to another farm near DeSoto, Wisconsin, where his two older daughters lived.

Ruth took violently ill. On June 13, she delivered stillborn twins. 

A few days later she made a shocking deathbed statement to her sisters: she said that their father was the father of the twins, and that he had used instruments on her to cause the abortion that killed the twins and was soon to take her own life.

Ruth died on June 24, and was buried on the 26th. 

"After the death and burial," says the July 26, 1882 Vernon County Censor, "suspicion of foul play having been around in the neighborhood, Phillips was arrested, the body disinterred, and a post mortem examination had by Dr. Gott."

The autopsy showed that Ruth had died from uterine inflammation, though there were no marks of instrumentation that the doctor could find.

Phillips. a native of Wales, was arrested and jailed pending $1,400 bail (a little over $11,000 in 2022).  "There is much excitement in the community where Phillips lives, and open threats of lynching in case he secures bail."

"The crimes is the most terrible one that can be conceived, and if Phillips is proven guilty, no punishment that the law provides for such offenses can prove adequate."

Phillips had been tried fifteen years earlier for committing incest against another of his daughters, but was acquitted in that case.

Lynching turned out to be unnecessary. Phillips hanged himself in his jail cell on August 5, 1882. This leads me to believe that the abortion had really taken place, since a mere incest case hadn't been enough to lead him to suicide 15 years or so earlier.

Watch "Jailhouse Suicide" on YouTube.

Sources:






Thursday, June 23, 2022

June 23, 1899: Widow Dies After Doctor Does Abortion

Cora A. Burke, age 20, lived with her mother and 4-year-old son and her parents in Idaho. She'd been widowed about five months and had recently become engaged to marry.

Dr. R. J. Alcorn
In May of 1899, Cora told Mrs. Martha Johnson that she was about six weeks pregnant and wanted to find a good doctor to perform an abortion. Mrs. Johnson introduced Cora to Dr. Robert J. "R. J." Alcorn who had been practicing medicine in Kootenai County, Idaho, for a short time. Dr. Alcorn was living in the boarding house Mrs. Johnson operated with Mr. E.J. Abbey.

Cora went to Dr. Alcorn's room about two days after they were introduced. Mr. Abbey listened from an adjoining room, and heard Cora say that the instrument Dr. Alcorn was using was hurting her.

On the night of Tuesday, June 21, Dr. Alcorn asked Mr. T.J. Rundell to help him carry a table into his office, which was at the back of a drug store in the town of Harrison. Rundell's curiosity was piqued, and he asked Alcorn if he was going to "dissect a stiff." Alcorn told him no, he was going to perform an operation on somebody from across the river.

Rundell decided to snoop, so he returned at 10:00 PM and saw Cora go through the drug store into Alcorn's office. Rundell then slipped around to the back of the building, where he could peer into Alcorn's office around an ill-hung window blind. The following is what Rundell says he observed.

Alcorn stood beside the chair where Cora was sitting, supporting her head with one hand. He had a small vial containing a dark liquid, and was holding a cloth to Cora's face. Cora seemed to fall into a deep sleep, whereupon Alcorn picked her up and lay her on the table.

Alcorn removed Cora's undergarments and positioned her for the surgery. He examined her internally, inserted a speculum, then inserted a probe about a foot long into her body, causing a flow of blood which he blotted up with a cloth. From time to time, Alcorn applied the cloth to Cora's face again. The entire procedure took about an hour and a half.

Cora was awakened, and Alcorn helped her to set her clothing to rights and sent her on her way.

At about 4 PM the next day, Alcorn was called to tend to Cora, who was in a lot of pain. He examined her and found her uterus to be inflamed and bleeding. He prescribed ergot, to be given one-half teaspoon each half-hour for three doses, then every hour afterward for 18 hours. Cora's mother asked Alcorn about her daughter's condition. Alcorn told her, "She caught a bad cold. She does not flow enough when she has her monthlies. I will give her something to make her flow."

At about 6:00 PM on the 21st, William Ketchum called Alcorn to visit Mrs. Ketchum, but Alcorn told him, "Well, I don't know. I am expecting a miscarriage here any minute. I can go over there, and come back, if it does not make any difference to them." So he went to Ketchum's home to attend to his wife.

Over the ensuing days, Alcorn visited Cora five times, the last time about two hours before she died on Friday afternoon, June 23. Her feet and hands were cold, her fingers blue, her lips purple. Alcorn told Cora's mother that she was doing well and would be up soon. Alcorn immediately took a train to Washington state, returning about 10:00 on the following Sunday morning. The next day he again left the state, this time going to Montana, where he was arrested and returned to Kootenai county.

While Cora had been ill, she passed a lot of blood and clots. Mrs. Knight, who visited Cora during her illness, testified, "I helped dress her after she was dead. Her clothing and bedclothing were saturated with blood. A quilt was doubled up under her four thicknesses, and it was clear through the quilt. It was clots of blood. I observed an odor in connection with it. There was too great a quantity to have come from the ordinary menstruation. Much greater in quantity."

Kootenai County Sherriff F. H. Bradbury testified about the conversation he'd had with Alcorn on the train bringing him back to face justice. "He told me that he never had anything to do with this girl, Cora Burke; that he began in the daytime an operation on a man for stricture, and did not complete it; and that he took him in the back room of the drug store and completed the operation in the evening. He gave me this statement after I had warned him not to make any statement to me."

Alcorn testified on is own behalf, saying that Cora had attempted to do an abortion on herself with "a hair dart," which had punctured the wall of her uterus and broken off, leaving about 1 1/2 inches. Alcorn said that he'd used a speculum and piston syringe to remove the foreign body from Cora's uterus.

The physicians called as expert witnesses on the case all agreed that Cora died of septicemia or blood poisoning. They also agreed that ergot itself would be enough to cause an abortion.

Alcorn's defense also raised the possibility that Cora hadn't actually been pregnant, but the court concluded that Cora had believed herself to be pregnant, had sought an abortion, and had undergone a procedure intended to cause an abortion, which was enough to demonstrate the intent of the defendant to kill a fetus, especially in the light of Alcorn's statement that he was expecting a patient to miscarry.

Alcorn was charged with murder. His first trial ended with a hung jury. The second jury found him guilty of manslaughter. The judge sentenced Alcorn to seven years in the penitentiary. Alcorn appealed, partially on the grounds that since the indictment did not specifically say that the abortion took place in 1899, the injury was not proven to have taken place less than a year and a day prior to the death.

Watch "Shouldn't 'All Surgery Have Risks' Apply?" at YouTube.

Sources: 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

June 22, 1951: Fatal Abortion Blamed on Nurse

 At 11:45 am on June 22, 1951, 18-year-old Minnie Bell Stewart was pronounced dead on arrival at Columbia Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina. Minnie had worked as a domestic servant.

Her cause of death was determined to be generalized peritonitis due to a criminal abortion. It was ruled a homicide.

A practical nurse was held by police in the case.

Both Minnie and the nurse were Black women.

Watch "Was Scant Reporting Due to Race?" on YouTube.

Sources: 






Tuesday, June 21, 2022

June 21, 1985: Teen Dies After Languishing in Coma

Seventeen-year-old Debra Ann Lozinski had languished for two months in a coma, hospitalized after an abortion at Medical Care Center in Woodbridge, New Jersey.

On June 21, 1985, Debra's parents filed suit against Dr. Scheininger, Dr. Sinha, and other staff for failing to properly screen and examine Debra prior to her abortion. They also alleged that staff failed to properly monitor their daughter's vital signs during the abortion, failing to quickly detect and properly treat respiratory difficulty. As a result, Debra suffered the brain damage that had caused her coma.

Shortly after midnight on June 22, a hospital staffer checked on Debra and found her dead; she evidently had died shortly before midnight.

See the memorial page Debra's friends put in her high school year book here.

Watch "Did Anybody Monitor Debra?" on YouTube.


Monday, June 20, 2022

June 20, 1974: Abortion Rights Hero Kills Teen

Dr. Milan Vuitch

Dr. Milan Vuitch was a hero among abortion advocates. He had deliberately been arrested performing criminal abortions so that he could challenge the Washington, DC abortion law, and he succeeded in changing the way the law was enforced, effectively nullifying it.

On June 15, 1974, seventeen-year-old Wilma Harris of West Virginia went to Vuitch's Laurel Clinic for a safe and abortion. Five days later, on June 20, she was dead. During interrogatories, Vuitch said that anesthesiologist Strahil Nacev described Wilma as "so quiet" during the abortion. Although he had begun a vacuum abortion, Vuitch said that the fetus had been too big to pass through the suction tube. He said he used instruments to remove the remaining fetal parts.

Although the abortion was done at around 2:00 PM, Vuitch didn't transfer Wilma to a properly equipped hospital until after midnight. Wilma's family sued, claiming that Vuitch and his staff had allowed Wilma to lapse into a coma and lie unattended for 12 hours before transferring her to the hospital. The suit also claimed that Vuitch and his staff falsified records to cover their tracks. The family won a judgment on December 23, 1976, but the settlement was sealed by court order.

Georgianna English also died after an abortion by Vuitch. WDVM-TV won a Peabody Award for their expose of Vuitch after her death.

Vuitch isn't the only abortionist who kept his nose clean as a criminal abortionist, only to kill two patients after legalization. Jesse Ketchum managed to kill Margaret Smith and Carole Schaner in a four-month period after New York put out a welcome mat for carpetbagging abortionists in 1970. Benjamin Munson of South Dakota killed Linda Padfield and Yvonne Mesteth.

Watch "Permission to Take Lethal Risks" on YouTube.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

June 19, 1984: Teen Daughter Found Dead on the Floor

After awakening from a nap on June 19, 1984, 14-year-old "Gwen Newhart's"* mother found her dead on the bathroom floor.

Dr. E. Wyman Garrett
Just five days before, Gwen had undergone a second-trimester abortion performed by 46-year-old Dr. E. Wyman Garrett** in Newark, New Jersey. She was 22 weeks pregnant.

At home after her abortion, Gwen began vomiting and suffered from abdominal pain and a high fever. Her mother called Garrett, who told her that the symptoms were normal and prescribed antibiotics. She seemed to improve briefly, but took a turn for the worse on June 18.

Gwen's mother called the next morning and Garrett said to bring Gwen in to the office. Mrs. Newhart took a nap and awoke to find her daughter dead on the bathroom floor.

The massive infection that was causing her symptoms killed her.

An autopsy found that Gwen's uterus had been punctured, and her abdomen was full of pus and adhesions.

When the New Jersey medical board investigated Dr. Garrett, they noted that he had illegally altered Gwen's medical records. He had also performed Gwen's abortion in violation of state regulations, since New Jersey required that abortions past the first trimester be performed in a hospital.

They noted other, non-fatal injuries including:

  • A 16-year-old girl who had to be hospitalized with a 1-inch tear in her uterus and a pelvic infection from a second-trimester abortion Garrett performed in his office rather than a hospital
  • A baby boy born alive at University Hospital in Newark after Garrett had initiated a saline abortion; the baby died 15 weeks later.
  • A baby girl who suffered birth injuries leaving her severely brain damaged after Garrett failed to diagnose intrauterine growth retardation
  • A woman who was discharged from the clinic with a fetal head left in her uterus

Garrett argued that he was suffering from ''burnout syndrome,'' caused by performing more than 2,600 second-trimester abortions between 1982 and 1986. He asserted, "If any man has this much work, he's going to have complications." He pleaded no-contest in the state case.

In 1986 the board concluded that Garrett was guilty of gross negligence, abandonment of patients, and professional misconduct. He failed to recognize and treat complications in a timely manner, they found. banned Garrett from performing abortions or other outpatient surgery. In 1987 they revoked his license. They cited a total of 26 abortions performed in a "grossly improper" manner. As of 1994 he still owed over $175,000 in fines and court costs from the medical board suspension proceedings.

Garrett had other unsavory run-ins with society. In 1971, during a teacher strike, Garrett (who was then a school board member) told a school trustee "We know where you live. We're going to get you." He then turned to a reporter who was taking notes and said, "You'll have to give me your notebook or you won't get out of this building alive." Garrett then, according to the reporter, summoned two men to beat the reporter up and take his notebook and wallet. Two weeks into the trial Garrett plea-bargained down to interfering with people at a public meeting and paid $2,000 in fines and costs. 

In 1983 he started refusing to do second-trimester abortions at University Hospital in Newark because they would no longer pay him $250 to $300 per abortion instead of the Medicaid physician fee of $79. (In 2022 dollars, he had been getting $734 - $880 per abortion when the Medicaid fee was $232.) Garrett publicly said that since the hospital was reimbursed $1,334 ($3,915 in 2022 dollars) per abortion and he performed 851 abortion there in the previous year, he'd brought the hospital more than $1.2 million in Medicaid dollars (about $3.5 in 2022 dollars). Garrett argued that he was entitled to more than $79 because his usual abortion fee was from $400 to $900 ($1,174 - $2,641 in 2022 dollars). 

In 1986 a whistleblower claimed that she discovered that Garret was preparing post-operative reports prior to surgery he was performing at University Hospital.

*Source failed to redact name in original, but out of privacy respect I use a pseudonym. 

** "John Roe 268" in Lime 5

Watch "Stopped Before He Could Kill Another Patient" on YouTube.

Sources: 


Saturday, June 18, 2022

June 18, 1973: Erstwhile Back Alley Butcher in South Dakota

Dr. Hugh Benjamin Munson had been practicing criminal abortion in Rapid City, SD as early as 1967. In 1969, he was convicted of performing an abortion on a 19-year-old patient. Munson, who went by his middle name, won an appeal in circuit court. When the state appealed, the South Dakota Supreme Court upheld the conviction. Munson was in the process of appealing this decision when Roe vs. Wade was handed down, making the case moot. Munson was free to practice abortion at-will.

Into this situation walked 28-year-old Linda Padfield.

Linda's Last Days

Linda Padfield

On June 14, 1973, Linda traveled about five hours to Munson's Rapid City clinic from her home in Groton, SD with her three small children and a friend. 

The following day Linda went to Munson's clinic, where  the 57-year-old doctor performed an abortion. Linda, her friend, and her children went to spend the night at a nearby hotel.

According to Linda's friend, Munson was supposed to come to the hotel the next day to check on Linda, but he never arrived. The two women were unable to reach him by phone, so they took Linda's children to do some sightseeing and then headed home to Groton. 

When arrived on the 17th, Linda was already sick with nausea and high fever. She told her mother about the abortion, and her mother took her to St. Luke's Hospital in Aberdeen for emergency surgery, but the infection had progressed too far and Linda died on June 18.

Three Years Later

Not a word about Linda's death appears in the media until three years later, almost to the day. Munson was arrested and charged with manslaughter on June 17, 1976.

Legal Wrangling and Taking Sides

Dr. H. Benjamin Munson
Munson asked that the manslaughter charge against him be dismissed because the statute of limitations had run out. The judge ruled that the clock began running not on the day Linda had been injured but on the day she had died. Thus, he ruled, charges were filed one day short of the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Munson also alleged that the decision to prosecute was made in bad faith because Attorney General William Janklow was opposed to abortion. Munson's attorney noted that since his client performed almost all the abortions in South Dakota, taking him out of circulation would put a virtual halt to abortions in the state. 

Abortion-rights activists with the National Abortion Rights Action League started a defense fund for Munson, raising over $40,000 (over $200,000 in 2022 dollars). The National Organization for Women took out a large newspaper ad offering public support for Munson. Given the choice between a dead patient and the person who had caused her death, they chose the latter.

The Trial Begins

Jury selection was held behind closed doors. Circuit Court Judge Merton Tice Jr. said that he wanted to have prospective jurors "free from influence outside of those which are proper." The Rapid City Journal sought to have the closure lifted so that they could cover jury selection. They lost their bid to open the procedure.

The jury was sequestered during the trial. Judge Tice asked the attorneys for both the prosecution and the defense not to talk to the press. 

Jurors were taken for a tour of Munson's clinic on the first post-selection day of the trial. 

Testimony From Doctors

One of the doctors who had treated Linda at the hospital, Dr. James Hovland, said that Linda had been conscious when she first arrived but that she deteriorated rapidly. She seemed to be going into kidney failure, and didn't even bleed from the incision made for exploratory surgery. When asked if an immediate hysterectomy would have saved her, Hovland expressed his doubts, given how gravely ill Linda was from the results of the infection raging through her entire body.

Dr. A. C. Vogele, another doctor who treated Linda, agreed with Dr. Hovland that Linda had been conscious and alert but was showing low blood pressure, abdominal pain, bleeding, and signs of shock. The exploratory surgery found no perforation of the uterus or bowel. The doctors halted any further surgery, Vogele said, because Linda was so sick that she'd have died during surgery. When asked if he would have performed a hysterectomy had he known how much of Linda's fetus was still inside his body, Vogele responded that he probably would have. 

The only person who knew how much of Linda's fetus was still in her body was Benjamin Munson, and he evidently had not bothered to tell anybody.

How much of Linda's unborn baby had been left in her uterus? A pathologist found the remains of a five-month fetus, missing the left leg, right arm, part of the skull, and part of the front of the torso. A five-month fetus typically weighs about 360 grams; Munson had left 240 grams behind. He had only removed about a third of Linda's baby.

The 240 grams of retained fetus were, the pathologist believed, the source of the problem. The retained fetus caused sepsis, which caused hemorrhage, which caused the adrenal failure that killed Linda.

The prosecution focused on the fact that infection will inevitably result from that much retained tissue and that there was simply no way Munson could have been unaware that he had failed to complete the abortion. The Attorney General commented, "You take a three-inch leg off something, you have to know that there's more in there than just the leg." 

Munson's Attorney's Argument

The defense argument was basically this:

  1. Lots of abortion doctors send patients home with retained tissue, figuring that the woman will just expel it later.
  2. Yes, retained tissue can cause infection, but infection is an accepted risk of abortion.
  3. The prosecution didn't prove that Munson was aware of how much of Linda's fetus had been left in her womb.
  4. The prosecution didn't prove that Munson had intended to cause Linda any harm.
  5. The only standard of care that can apply is the local standard of care. Since Munson was the only local abortion provider, whatever he did constituted the standard of care and therefore he could never violate that standard.

In short, he argued that since Munson was the only abortionist in South Dakota, whatever he did was by definition the right thing to do. Unless you could prove that he wanted Linda to die, you couldn't hold him accountable for her death.

The Verdict and Aftermath

The judge agreed with Munson's attorney and directed the jury to return a verdict of "Not guilty."

Munson called the directed verdict "like Christmas in October."

Munson later became a member of the National Abortion Federation (NAF). He evidently didn't to much to change his standards of care, because in 1985 he sent a teenage patient, Yvonne Mesteth, home with retained tissue. She, like Linda Padfield, died of infection. Again Munson was prosecuted for manslaughter, and again he beat the rap. As the only abortionist in South Dakota, he was the ultimate arbiter of what was accepted practice.

Munson in Context

Munson is the third former criminal abortionist I've learned of who had a clean record -- no patient deaths -- as a criminal abortionist, only to go on to kill two patients in his legal practice. The others are Milan Vuitch (Georgianna English and Wilma Harris) and Jesse Ketchum (Margaret Smith and Carole Schaner).

Munson died at a ripe old age in a Vermont nursing home in 2003. Had Linda not turned to Munson but instead reached out to a pregnancy resource center, she would have been 57 years old, and her baby 30 years old. 

Watch "It Was the Right Thing to Do Because He Did It" on YouTube.

Sources:



Thursday, June 16, 2022

June 16, 1993: Fatal Hemorrhage in Newark

Dr. Steven Berkman
A 20-year-old Newark college student, identified in prolife sources as "Jane Doe of Newark," underwent a safe and legal abortion by Dr. Steven Berkman at Metropolitan Medical Associates on June 16, 1993. She was in the second trimester of pregnancy.

Jane reportedly felt dizzy in recovery. Berkman examined her, noted that she had a perforated uterus, and had her taken to a hospital by ambulance. She died in surgery about four hours later, leaving her four-year-old son motherless.

"We are intensely investigating this matter," said an attorney for Jane's family. "We know something occurred that shouldn't have. We had a healthy 20-year-old go into that clinic and not come out. And I think a delay had something to do with it." Her medical chart showed the injury occurring at 10 a.m., but the ambulance wasn't summoned until two hours later.

A state report cited "chaos and confusion" when the ambulance arrived at the clinic to find Jane lifeless. The ambulance workers were not given adequate information about her condition.

Berkman said that there was no delay in transporting Jane to the hospital. He also said he did not believe she died from blood loss. The Bergen County Medical Examiner found that Jane had died from hemorrhage from a perforated uterus. Jane also had developed a clotting disorder that made it difficult to stop any bleeding. He ruled the death accidental.

Jane Roe is "Tracy" on Life Dynamics' "Blackmun Wall".

Watch "Did They Wait Too Long?" on YouTube.

Sources: 

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

June 14, 1991: Fatal Abortionist Better Than No Abortionist At All?

Angela Hall, a 27-year-old mother of five, felt unable to deal with a sixth child. She saw an advertisement for safe, legal abortion at Thomas Tucker's office in Alabama.  The ad, which pictured a couple walking arm-in-arm, said that Tucker did abortions to 24 weeks. Angela called to schedule an appointment. 

Angela was keeping the abortion a secret from her mother, and drove to Tucker's Birmingham clinic with a friend, Annette Wilson. One of Tucker's employees, Joy Davis, screened Angela and felt that she had risk factors that made abortion in an office setting unsafe. She had a fever and was anemic. Joy got on the phone with Tucker and indicated that she felt that Angela should be referred to a hospital. Tucker told Davis that "we need the money. Just do it. Just put the patient through." 

Tucker ordered her to prep Angela, who was in the second trimester of pregnancy. The fee for Angela's abortion was $1,800. She was already unconscious, under general anesthesia, when Tucker started the abortion on June 11, 1991. Angela started gasping for breath. Her blood pressure fell, setting off an alarm on a piece of monitoring equipment. Tucker told Davis to turn the alarm off because other patients could hear it. "It was a very panicked atmosphere," Joy Davis said. "Dr. Tucker was screaming at us." He managed to stabilize Angela's blood pressure and sent her to the recovery room.

While in recovery, Angela bled so heavily that Davis became alarmed and called an ambulance. "Blood was running down the table," Joy Davis tearfully told reporters. "It was pooling in the floor and running down behind her back." Angela's sheets and hospital gown were soaked. Davis said that Tucker told her that he was the doctor and if anybody was going to make a decision to call the ambulance, it was going to be him.

Davis reported to Tucker that Angela was bleeding through the packing put in place after the abortion, and asked him to do something for his patient.

"What do you want me to do?" he asked her. 

"I don't know," Davis said she responded, "but I want you to do something. She's going to lay here and die."

"Fine. Call the f*ing ambulance," Tucker said before leaving the building, according to Davis. He was loath to call an ambulance, Davis reported, because he had already referred a patient to a hospital that day for complications. 

Angela was taken to the hospital, where she suffered respiratory failure, clotting, and sepsis. It was hours after she was admitted that her friend finally called her mother, in hysterics, to say that Angela was being taken to the Intensive Care Unit. Annette didn't mention the abortion. Angela's mother rushed to the hospital, where she saw her daughter hooked up to tubes, pale, and breathing only faintly. 

She died just before midnight June 14. The autopsy found numerous tears and lesions in the pelvic area, and congestive necrosis in Angela's liver and spleen. The doctors concluded that amniotic fluid embolism had caused clotting problems resulting in necrosis, septic shock, and cardiac arrest. 

When Alabama authorities subpoenaed Angela's records, Tucker ordered Davis to destroy some and falsify others. Davis tore up the records, which he then tried to burn in an ash tray, Davis said. When this set off the clinic's smoke alarm, Tucker put out the fire, bagged up the papers, and told Davis to take the papers to the basement and burn them. Instead, she said, she taped them back together and eventually turned them over to the medical board. 

During the initial investigation, the board learned that Tucker allowed his untrained staff to do medical procedures, including inserting the laminaria sticks to dilate a patient's cervix prior to the abortion, while he wasn't even in-state much less at the clinic.

Tucker surrendered his medical license in order to halt the investigation, planning to renew his license at a later date.

It is interesting to note that in the publicity surrounding the lawsuit filed by Angela's family, Ron Fitzsimmons of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, among other prochoice groups, balked at efforts to close Tucker down, on the grounds that he was Alabama's only abortionist, and that even he was better than no abortionist at all.

Angela's parents took their five grandchildren into their two-bedroom house. Her youngest child has no memories of his mother, only of taking flowers to her grave.






Source: Jefferson County Circuit Court Case No. CV93-00632