Wednesday, November 30, 2022

November 30, 1954: Swim Champion Dies Pursuing Hollywood Stardom

Virginia Hopkins Watson, an Illinois native, had been on a record-setting relay swimming team with Esther Williams in 1939. Virginia had herself set the world's fifty-meter record in 1938. 

When she was admitted to California Hospital on November 26, 1954, doctors had reason to believe that something fishy was going on. They provided care until around 8:00 on the evening of November 29, when they transferred her to General Hospital because her kidneys had shut down, requiring an artificial kidney machine that California Hospital didn't have.

The kidney machine was unable to save Virginia's life. She died shortly before midnight. An autopsy concluded that she had died from peritonitis, bronchopneumonia, and purulent pericarditis. An abortionist had punched a hole in her uterus with an instrument, leading to the fatal infection.

It wasn't until 4:15 the morning of November 30 that anybody reported the cause of her illness to the police for investigation. 

Virginia had been 32 years old and pursuing a Hollywood career, hoping to follow the trail blazed by her former teammate. However, after being offered a small movie role in "Jungle Jim" with "Tarzan" star Johnny Weissmuller, she became pregnant. Since she couldn't do the movie in a visible state of pregnancy, Virginia arranged to have an abortion on November 18. 

An investigation uncovered that she had arranged for a lay abortionist, Roger Fred Brenon, to come to her house and perform the abortion there. Brenon had only been paroled three days earlier after serving 11 months of a jail term for perpetrating abortions that hadn't proved fatal to the women.

Virginia and her husband, Arthur, had been married for about ten years. They were living in a home shared with Virginia's mother. 

Arthur, who had to be compelled to testify in hearings and promised immunity, wept as he told his story. When shown a photo of Virginia that had been taken in the morgue, Arthur immediately looked away and cried, "Turn it over!"

Arthur seemed to have carefully avoided learning too much about what was going on even after observing Brenon in the kitchen evidently sterilizing some instruments  by boiling them on the stove. At Virginia's instruction, Arthur also wrote a check payable to cash for $150 and gave it to Brenon. (About $870 in 2020)

After the abortion, Virginia became sick with vomiting and bleeding before passing the dead fetus. 

By November 26, Virginia had difficulty in breathing and was taken to California Hospital. 

In telling the authorities about the events that led to his wife's death, he indicated that Brenon had visited Virginia two years earlier, spent time alone with her, and went off with a check Arthur had written. During  both visits, Arthur said, he'd been under the impression that Brenon was a physician named Rogers. 

Police Officer Herman Zander said that he had questioned Brenon after Virginia's death. Brenon had hedged about whether he knew Virginia. He attributed any possible acquaintance to the fact that he and his father had been members of the club where Virginia was a swimming teacher. When Officer Zander asked Brenon if he had used a catheter and a solution of tincture of green soap to induce an abortion on Virginia, Brenon reportedly responded, "I never used a catheter before. I always used a small glass syringe."

Brenon waived trial and chose to have his case heard before Judge Clement D. Nye. Brenon was convicted of second-degree murder in Virginia's death. He received a sentence of five years to life, along with a 1- to 5-year sentence for a probation violation. 

On appeal Brenon asserted that the testimony of Virginia's husband needed corroborating evidence, since Arthur was an accomplice, not merely a witness. Arthur had claimed 5th Amendment protection during Brenon's trial. He had admitted Brenon to the house, observed him cleaning instruments, written him a check, and destroyed the cancelled check when it was returned by the bank. Brenon's appeal was denied.


November 30, 1927: The First Known Victim of Dr. Email Gleitsman

On November 30, 1927, 22-year-old homemaker Lucille van Iderstine of 1844 Cuyler Avenue, Chicago died in the Chicago office of Dr. Emil Gleitsman (pictured) from an abortion that had been performed on her that day. 

Lucille left behind a three-year-old son and  her husband, William.

Gleitsman was indicted for felony murder in Lucille's death on January 15, 1928. 

Evidently Gleitsman beat the rap on Lucille's death because he was later implicated in the abortion deaths of Jeanette Reder in 1930, Mary Colbert in 1933, Marie O'Malley in 1941, and "Maggie" Doe.

November 30, 1874: A Widower Demands Justice

 At around 2:00 on the afternoon of November 30, 1874, Charles Dix went to the Madison Street Police Station in Chicago to report that Dr. W. T. Aiken had performed a fatal abortion on his wife, Mary. Mary Dix had died the previous day, November 29, at around 12:30 a.m. Detective Flynn of Madison Street Station arrested Dr. W. F. Aikin, who had his office at 343 State Street. The warrant was sworn out for Aiken's arrest. 

Charles said that about a week earlier, Dr. Aiken had come to the house to treat one of their two children, who was sick. Charles had been napping on the sofa and overheard a conversation between Mary and Dr. Aiken that sounded as if Mary was arranging for Aikin to perform an abortion on her. When Aiken left, Charles spoke to Mary about what he'd overheard and she admitted that he was right but promised not to follow through.

Mary left the house on November 29 and was gone all afternoon and into the early evening. That night Mary was in such violent pain that Charles concluded that she'd gone through with the abortion after all. 

She was doing much worse the next day, which alarmed Charles so he summoned Aiken. A servant girl walked to the Dix house with Aiken and told Charles that Aiken had said that he hoped Mrs. Dix would keep her mouth shut if anything went wrong. Charles immediately told Aikin to leave and summoned Dr. Xelonski. He cared for Mary until Friday, when her condition became so critical that he called in Dr. Fleming and Dr. Edwards to help. The three doctors were unable to save her and she died at around 1:30 on the afternoon of December 2.

On questioning, Aiken said that he had been the Dix family physician for several months, having treated both Mr. Dix and his little daughter. On November 22 Mrs. Dix had visited his office for treatment. She came again on Tuesday the 24th, when he examined her and prescribed some medicine. She told him that Dr. White, a physician in Buffalo, had operated on her. Aiken said that he advised her not to walk home but she did so anyway. On Friday the 28th he went to the Dix home and their servant told him that he wasn't to come to the house any more. Mr. Dix, he said, acted strangely and reiterated that his services were no longer wanted. The conversation Mr. Dix had over heard was Mrs. Dix, Aiken said, telling him that she'd already attempted an abortion on herself and wanted to be examined to see if the attempt had been successful. He insisted that the servant girl was of low character and that nobody should trust anything she said. 

The next morning Dr. Fleming and the County Physician, Dr. Henrotin, performed an autopsy at the house. After hours of examining Mary's body and consulting with each other and Dr. Leonard they concluded that Mary's baby had been dead about three weeks before her death.

After an intensive investigation, however, a coroner's jury found no evidence that Mary had told anybody that she'd used any kind of instrument on herself. Witnesses included Julia Brown, Anna Merrit, and Dr. Van Buren. Dr. Wickersham testified about the cause of death as observed in the post-mortem examination. Their final conclusion was as followed:

An inquisition was taken for the People of the State of Illinois... on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd days of December, A. D. 1874, before me, John Stephens, Coroner in and for said county, upon view of the body of Mary Dix, and we find that the deceased, now lying dead at 250 West Randolph street, came to her death, Nov. 30, 1874, from primary inflammation of the womb, followed by septicemia, said inflammation being the result of an effort of the deceased to produce an abortion on herself.

Aiken, age 33, was a graduate of Maryland University. He had been a doctor for fifteen years, serving as an Army surgeon during the Civil War, during which time he was wounded at Gettysburg. He came to Chicago to practice medicine after the war and lived with his wife and son in rooms adjoining his office. 

When a reporter went to the Dix house to speak with Charles, a man greeted him at the door to tell him that Mr. Dix was worn out and distraught and in no condition to speak with a reporter. The man relayed to the reporter that Mr. Dix had been alarmed when his wife had returned from Aiken's office on Tuesday and had called in Dr. Fleming, Dr. Xelowski, and Dr. E.W. Edwards on Friday. The family had moved to Chicago from Buffalo. The couple had a 4-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, and had three more children who had died.


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Lime 5: Amputation

When we were writing Lime 5, we were surprised to find cases where women ended up suffering amputations -- though we only found four and we had no "secular" source for one of them. ("Secular" sources were non-prolife sources such as autopsy reports, court documents, mainstream newspaper articles, and so on. We heard from one prolife group that a woman in their city had ended up a quadruple amputee due to post-abortion sepsis, and the prolifers were bringing her groceries, but she never sued or filed with the medical board or complained to the health department, so we couldn't include her.) 

A smiling young woman of Hispanic descent, with thick dark hair and a white hat
Carolina Gutierrez

I'm not sure why Carolina Gutierrez didn't make it into the book, but it might have been a matter of timing. Her family's attorneys actually got in touch with us while we were working on the book and Carolina was fighting for her life. We were getting regular updates on her condition -- including the amputations -- and not wanting to ask the lawyers if the children were being brought to the hospital to see her and wondering where Mommy's hands and feet were. It was crushing when she died. 

With that said, here are the two cases that made it into the book:

"Naomi" underwent an abortion performed by John Roe 139 in 1981. Due to an error in administering drugs, she had to have portions of three fingers amputated. (NEED ORIGINAL SOURCE: Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. WEC073497)

"Laura" underwent an abortion performed by John Roe 320 on April 1, 1985. Immediately afterward she developed a rash and her hand swelled, but she was discharged without this being addressed. When the swelling spread up her arm, and the arm turned purple, she went to the emergency room. Her arm developed gangrene and had to be amputated. Roe admitted that he might have injected drugs incorrectly when performing the abortion. (Houston Chronicle, July 18, 1985; Suburbia Reporter, July 24 and August 21, 1985)

Watch Lime 5: Amputation on YouTube.

November 29, 1934: Case Overturned Due to Timing of Statement

Ollie Whisks Ethel Away

Ethel Irene Smith, age 20, lived with her father, William Archie Smith, in Guilford County, about six miles north of Greensboro, North Carolina. At about 6:30 pm on Monday, November 5, 1934, 35-year-old Ollie Parish pulled up outside the Smith home and honked his horn. Parish, who lived only about 3/10 of a mile from Ethel, had been "going with her" for about two and a half years, meeting her outside her home about weekly. He'd only ever gone to her home to visit her once or twice in all that time. At the sound of Ollie's horn, Ethel put on her cloak and hat and rode off with her sweetheart.

The couple drove to the home of Ethel's sister, Golda Smith Brewer, in Greensboro, arriving at around 8:30 that evening though the drive from Ethel's home was only about 15 minutes. The couple went in and chatted with Mrs. Brewer for about fifteen minutes before Ollie left, telling Ethel he'd stop by to see her on Tuesday.

Ethel slept over Monday and Tuesday nights. Ollie did not stop by as he had promised.

Ethel Takes Ill

On Wednesday morning, about about 6 a.m., Ethel called out for her sister. Mrs. Brewer found Ethel to be in severe pain, so she summoned Dr. W. P. Night. 

Dr. Knight arrived about an hour later and examined Ethel. He determined that she was laboring to expel a fetus as a result of instruments used on her to cause an abortion. On his advice, Ethel was taken to St. Leo's Hospital by ambulance. 

Doctors found a decomposed fetal skeleton in Ethel's vagina, causing blood poisoning. They also performed a curettage to remove any tissue from her uterus.

Ethel would remain hospitalized until her death on at 7 a.m. on November 29 from septic pneumonia. Strangely, there was no manner of death marked on her death certificate.

On November 12, police arrested Ollie Parish. While he was in jail, Ethel's brother-in-law, Eli Brewer, came to visit him and reported that Ollie said, "I was going to marry her; I intend to marry her."

Ethel's Story

Minnie D. Hinton was a county case supervisor. On Friday, November 9, she visited Ethel in the hospital and found her gravely ill. She visited Ethel several more time, including on November 16. Armed with information passed along to her, she knelt by Ethel's bed.

Ethel told her that Ollie was the father of her baby, and that at his insistence, over her objections, he'd taken her to Dr. Stewart.

Ollie, she said, brought her to Stewart's office on three time, the last visit being Monday, November 5. That evening Stewart had put her on a table and inserted a tube into her vagina, telling her to leave it in place until Tuesday night. He admonished her that if anybody asked her what had taken place, she was to say she had taken quinine.

Later that evening Mrs. Hinton got a call to return to the hospital. A stenographer was there, along with the stenographer's husband and a man named Mr. Ballinger. She questioned Ethel while the stenographer wrote the conversation down in shorthand.

Ethel restated that she was pregnant by Ollie Parish and that he had insisted on an abortion.

The first visit to Stewart, she said, had been on October 1, when "He put me on the table and used an instrument to open me up." He told Ethel to return on Saturday night "and he would do the rest."

Ethel gave no details on what happened on the second visit, about two weeks later.

On the third and final visit, Monday, November 5, and "put a tube in me" with instructions "to take it out the next night at the same time. I did so, and that was when I was taken so sick."

Ollie's Story

Ollie later testified that he had known Ethel Smith since she was a child. He denied ever engaging in sexual intercourse with her, but said, "I was in love with her. I think she was fond of me. We were not particularly engaged. I did not have a job sufficient to marry. We never discussed marriage."

He admitted to driving Ethel to her sister's home but said that they'd arrived at about 7:00, and that the trip had been at Ethel's request. "I did not know that she was pregnant. I did not take her to Dr. C. C. Stewart's office that night, or at any other time."

He denied having told Ethel's brother-in-law that he had intended to marry Ethel.

The Other Party

Dr. Charles C. Stewart, a Black doctor, had an office in the Stewart Building, on East Market Street in Greensboro. He, like Ollie Parish, was arrested November 12. He was released on $2,500 bond.

He testified, "I did not, during October or November, 1934, or at any other time, insert any instrument or tube, prescribe any medicine, or give any advice to a white woman named Ethel Smith for the purpose of causing her to have an abortion. I did not attend her in any capacity, nor did I have any conversation with her about quinine." 

He did say that a white woman, who resembled the photograph of Ethel Smith, did visit his office on the evening of October 15. "She seemed to be excited. I asked her what I could do for her. She said that she was pregnant and asked me if I could do something for her. I told her, no. She said somebody must do something for her. I said, I am sorry, and I have not seen her since."

He also said that he had never seen Ollie Parish until the preliminary trial in the abortion case.

The court document mentioned that "There was evidence tending to corroborate the testimony of the defendant C. C. Stewart. There was also evidence tending to show that his reputation in the city of Greensboro, both as a man and as a physician, is good.

The Outcome

The two men were originally charged with second-degree murder.

The trial brought little publicity, mostly getting mention in summaries of whatever was happening in court that week. An exception was an article noting that Stewart's attorney had peremptorily challenged a Black man on the jury list, after having quashed the indictment the previous year because there were no Black men in the jury pool. Stewart and Parish eventually managed to seat a jury with two Black men and the case could proceed.

There was also a moment of drama when Dr. Charles E. Moore, a defense witness, was charged with contempt when he showed up for court so intoxicated that he could not testify.

Both men were found guilty of manslaughter. Stewart was sentenced to 7 - 12 years, Parish 12 - 15 years. The men appealed on the grounds that Ethel's statement, taken November 16, could not be considered a deathbed statement because it was not clear at that time, 13 days before her death, that Ethel was certain to die shortly. They won their appeal for a new trial. Stewart was released on a bond of $5,000 but Parish remained in jail because he couldn't raise his $7,500 bond. 

I haven't seen documentation of a new trial, and as of September of 1936, Stewart was still a free man and practicing medicine, as evidenced by a lawsuit filed against him as a general surgeon.


November 29, 1926: The Last Known Death of Dr. Lucy Hagenow

On November 29, 1926, 25-year-old stenographer Mary Moorehead died from a criminal abortion perpetrated in the Chicago office of Dr. Lucy Hagenow. 

Hagenow (pictured) wasn't arrested until November 13 of the following year. 

Hagenow told the court that Mary had come to her office on November 5, giving her name as Margaret Sullivan. Hagenow said that she examined Mary, who had a foul-smelling vaginal discharge. Hagenow said that she concluded that Mary's unborn baby had died.

Hagenow said that she packed Mary's vagina with an antiseptic-soaked cotton ball and sent her home. She said that she told Mary that she would come by the next day with another doctor. If that doctor concurred that the baby was dead, Hagenow would get yet another doctor to come and perform an operation to remove the dead baby. 

Hagenow said that Mary paid her $50 in advance for the promised care and left, but when she went to the address "Margaret Sullivan" had provided she found only a vacant lot. That was the last she'd known of the woman, she said, until she was arrested for Mary's death.

The prosecution, however, asserted that several police officers had been present when Mary was about to go surgery in an attempt to save her life. With Hagenow present, Mary told the police that Hagenow had used instruments on her to perpetrate an abortion on November 5.

Dr. Charles H. Phifer testified that on November 7 he saw Mary at her home. She was in a lot of pain and told him that she had been to see Hagenow. Dr. Phifer concluded that Mary was in labor, though he could not determine if the unborn child was alive or dead. He said that he told Mary to consult with Dr. Hagenow.

The next time Dr. Phifer saw Mary it was at Illinois Central Hospital on November 12. She was no longer pregnant and was suffering from septicemia. 

Hagenow was convicted of murder by abortion for Mary's death. She was sentenced to 14 years at Joliet Penitentiary, but was able to get her conviction overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court, which 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, who also went by the name of Louise or Louisa Hagenow, had a long and unsavory history of being involved in women's abortion deaths. The first were in San Francisco before Hagenow relocated to Chicago around 1890. The abortion deaths Hagenow was linked to include:

Monday, November 28, 2022

November 28, 1888: A Young Bride's Fatal Decision

On November 28, 1888, an 18-year-old woman identified in the news as "Mrs. George Libby" died in Wahpeton in the Dakota Territories.

A wedding announcement from 1887 leads me to believe that her first name was Anna.

Mrs. Libby was hospitalized before her death. She told physicians there that she had taken an abortifacient drug peddled by a traveling salesman.

After Mrs. Libby's death a post-mortem examination was done which revealed that she had never been pregnant.

Watch Three Clippings from 1888 on YouTube.


  • Untitled clippings from the Wahpeton Times (November 29, 1888), Sioux City Journal (December 2, 1888), and Wessington Springs Herald (December 14, 1888)

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Lime 5: Incapacitation

Women who have since died:

Shelby Moran, a 39-year-old mother of five, was given Prostaglandin F2 Alpha for a safe, legal abortion at Illinois Masonic Medical Center in January of 1978. Immediately after the drug was injected, Shelby experienced grossly abnormal elevation of her blood pressure. The abortionist, Dr. John J. Barton, thought that the elevation would be transient, and left the facility. Half an hour later, Shelby went into cardiopulmonary arrest. She suffered brain damage due to lack of oxygen, causing dementia and speech aphasia. Shelby was no longer able to care for herself, much less her five children. She required 24-hour care in a nursing home until her death on September 16, 1999, after being incapacitated for nearly 22 years.

Venus Ortiz

Venus Ortiz was 23 years old when she went for a safe, legal abortion at National Abortion Federation member Eastern Women's Center (Acme Reproductive Services 35) in New York on February 24, 1993. Evidence indicated that the abortion of Venus' approximately 15-week pregnancy was performed by Dr. Leiber (John Roe 489). Due to negligence in administering anesthesia to Venus, she went into cardio-respiratory arrest. Staff failed to notice and treat the arrest promptly and properly. Venus was left in permanent need of respirator, with profound brain damage. She remained in a coma/vegetative state until her death nearly six years later in a Staten Island nursing home on December 16, 1998 at the age of 29.  Two other patients, Dawn Ravenell and Dawn Mack, also died of complications of abortions done at Eastern Women's Center.

A thin, middle-aged white man sits at the bedside of a disabled young woman, looking into her face and holding her hand
Fred Stile and daughter Christi

Christi Stile underwent an abortion on July 1, 1993 at Mayfair Women's Center in Aurora, Colorado. It was performed by Ronald Kuseski (John Roe 360). During the procedure, Kuseski looked up to see that Christi was pale and her lips were turning blue. Her heart had stopped beating. There were no records that Christi's vitals were being monitored, nobody at the clinic was trained to handle anesthesia complications, and the clinic lacked the proper resuscitation equipment. Paramedics were able to resuscitate Christi, but she was left blind and in a vegetative state. She remained in that condition for 21 years, 8 months, and 28 days until her death on March 29, 2015, at the age of 39. 

Women whose fates I've been unable to determine:

"Diana" had an abortion performed by John Roe 791 on July 21, 1973. She was admitted to the hospital the following day, in great pain and suffering a high fever. She expelled the retained fetus into a bedpan. The high fever caused permanent brain damage. (NEED ORIGINAL SOURCE: Hamilton County Ohio Court of Common Pleas Case No. A745102)

"LaVerne" was a 35-year-old mother of two when she underwent an abortion at a Washington, DC abortion clinic in November of 1987. The nurse who was administering anesthesia inadvertently placed the anesthesia tube in LaVerns's esophagus instead of in her trachea. Before the error was discovered, LaVerne had suffered oxygen starvation that left her in a persistent vegetative state. (NEED ORIGINAL SOURCE: Washington DC Superior Court Civil Action No. 10616-78)

Dr. Youl Choi

"Nina" underwent an abortion performed by Dr. Youl Choi (John Roe 158) on January 2, 1988. She went into cardiac arrest during the procedure, and Choi lacked both the training and the equipment to resuscitate her properly. As a result, Nina was left comatose and legally incapacitated, and was expected to need nursing home care for the remainder of her life. Choi had already performed a fatal abortion on Angel Dardie in 1982. (NEED ORIGINAL SOURCE: Wayne County Michigan Circuit Court Case No. 90-016792 NH)

"Augusta" underwent an abortion by John Roe 694 on February 17, 1992. She hemorrhaged during the procedure and went into respiratory arrest. She suffered permanent brain damage that left her incapacitated. (NEED ORIGINAL SOURCE: Tulsa County Oklahoma District Court Case No. CJ-92-1308)

Watch Lime 5: Incapacitation on YouTube.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

November 26, 1923: Deadly Abortion Attributed to Doctor

I have very little information on today's illegal abortion anniversary. On November 26, 1923, 23-year-old Alice Johnson died at Chicago's West End Hospital from a criminal abortion performed that day. The coroner identified Dr. Lorenz Lapsky as being responsible for Alice's death.  Lapsky was indicted by a grand jury for felony murder on December 15.

Watch Another Chicago Mystery Abortion on YouTube.

November 26, 2003: Sent Home to Bleed to Death

Malachy DeHenre
Leigh Ann Alford, age 34, underwent a safe and legal abortion at the hands of Dr. Malachy Malvin DeHenre at Summit Medical Center of Alabama, a National Abortion Federation member clinic, on November 25, 2003. She was about 17 weeks into her pregnancy.

Leigh Ann was discharged from the clinic 20 minutes after her abortion, according to a lawsuit filed by her husband. Within six hours, he said, he called the facility to report that Leigh Ann was suffering pain and fever, and was told that his wife did not need to be seen. He later found her lying unresponsive on the floor and called 911.

An ambulance transported Leigh Ann to the emergency room at Medical Center East in Birmingham, Alabama. She died about 18 hours after the clinic had sent her home. 

Death was attributed to hemorrhagic shock from an unrecognized uterine perforation. 

Several other patients suffered similar catastrophic injuries but were admitted to hospitals where other doctors were able to save their lives.

DeHenre was later convicted of manslaughter after shooting his wife in the head. He served half his sentence then was deported to his native Nigeria. Not only was he a murderer and a quack -- he was an illegal alien.

November 26, 1971: Screaming and Blind, Woman Dies from Abortion

 "Monica" was a 31-year-old mother of five. She requested an abortion when she was 8 weeks pregnant, but the abortion was delayed about a month in order to address "some health, personal and administrative problems." The abortion was scheduled for November 20, 1971.

Her doctor decided that it was best to simply remove Monica's uterus with the fetus still in it. The hysterectomy was done under general anesthesia with no apparent complications.

On the second day after surgery, Monica developed fever and nausea, and had no bowel sounds. The next day she felt unwell and had a distended abdomen. The next day, she felt better and resumed eating, but still had not had a bowel movement.

Six days after the surgery, November 26, Monica began to scream and vomit. She reported severe abdominal pain and couldn't see. Within an hour of the onset of these symptoms, Monica died.

The autopsy revealed grim findings. Monica had a severe infection that had interfered with her bowel function. As she continued to eat but not to have bowel movements, her bowels backed up, allowing gastric juices to enter her lungs and begin to digest them. She also had bacteria in her brain, which may have caused her blindness in the final hour of her life.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Lime 5: Coma

For some inexplicable reason, all of the coma cases Mark Crutcher selected for this section of Lime 5 were fatal, even though we had cases at that time of women who had not yet died from their injuries. 

First covered is 19-year-old Angela Scott, who stopped breathing in the recovery room of National Abortion Federation member Atlanta Women's Pavillion on June 2, 1979. At the time we went to press, we only knew that Delores Smith, only 15 years old, was left unattended with her anesthesia drip running while staff went to deal with Angela. Delores slipped into a coma as well. Angela was transported to a hospital, where she remained in a coma until her death on June 11. I've since learned that Delores died on October 24 without ever regaining consciousness. I also learned later that Delores underwent the fatal abortion in spite of a negative pregnancy test.

A headshot of a young, smiling Black girl wearing a graduation cap
Dawn Ravenell

Next we move to 13-year-old Dawn Ravenell. A school counselor arranged for her to undergo an abortion behind her parents' backs on January 24, 1985. Her 15-year-old boyfriend had paid for the $450 with a credit card he'd borrowed from a relative. Dawn was not given enough anesthesia to keep her under for the entire procedure, so she began to vomit and choke. Dr. Alan Kline (John Roe 475) who was performing the abortion at National Abortion Federation member Eastern Women's Center, just put in a breathing tube then left Dawn unattended in a recovery room. Staff sent her to a hospital once they noticed that she had slipped into a coma. Only then did somebody notify her mother. Dawn died on February 11 without ever regaining consciousness. Venus Ortiz and Dawn Mack also underwent fatal abortions at Eastern. Venus actually spent more time comatose than Dawn had: six years.

Jacqueline Reynolds was the 22-year-old mother of a 4-year-old daughter when she underwent an abortion under general anesthesia on August 27, 1986. She turned blue from lack of oxygen due to a breathing tube that had not been inserted properly. She lapsed into coma from which she never recovered. She was pronounced dead on September 5. (NEED ORIGINAL SOURCES: Cobb County Georgia Superior Court Case No. 88A16621-2, Cobb County Georgia State Court Case No. 89A 004263-3)

News clipping headshot of a smiling young Black woman
Belinda Byrd

Belinda Byrd was the sixth woman to die from an abortion botched at Inglewood Women's Hospital in Los Angeles. She was the 69th of 74 women that Dr. Stephen Pine (John Roe 649) rushed through Inglewood's single procedure room on January 24, 1987. Fully 24 of those abortions were performed in the final two hours of the day at the 28-bed hospital. Pine finished Belinda's abortion in roughly nine minutes, ending at about 4:00 p.m. She was only kept in the recovery room for about seven minutes before she was taken to the hospital's west wing. Belinda complained that she was weak and her legs were numb at about 5:00 pm. She collapsed in the bathroom a short time later and had to be helped back to her bed. At around 6:00 p.m. Pine left the hospital. At around 7:00 p.m. Belinda again reported that she felt weak and her legs were numb. About ten minutes later a nurse tried to take Belinda's vital signs but could find no pulse. Staff at Inglewood attempted resuscitation themselves for two hours before finally calling an ambulance to transfer Belinda to Centinela Medical Center, a hospital with appropriate emergency services. Belinda arrived at Centinela apparently brain-dead atop bloody sheets. She remained comatose until she was taken off life support on January 27. Kathy Murphy (1973), Lynette Wallace (1975), Elizabeth Tsuji (1978) and Cora Lewis (1983) had already died from abortions at Inglewood.

October 10, 1989, 27-year-old Catherine Pierce died in a nursing home in Tennessee from abortion complications that had left her comatose since March 11. She left an 11-year-old daughter motherless. The abortion was performed at National Abortion Federation member Atlanta Surgi-Center (Acme Reproductive Services 34), which had at one time also done business as "Northside Women's Clinic," by Daniel McBrayer (John Roe 502). Catherine had gone into cardiac arrest while left unattended in recovery after her abortion. State officials alleged "serious problems" after Peirce was injured. They cited this National Abortion Federation facility for administering "the same anesthesia dosages" to patients whose weights ranges from 107 to 167 pounds, inadequate record keeping, and inadequate supervision of patients.

Glenda Davis, age 31, mother of two, underwent a safe and legal abortion performed by Robert Hanson at Aaron Family Planning March 11, 1989. During the abortion, Glenda suffered a 1.5 - 2 inch long wound to her uterine artery and vein complex, causing massive bleeding. After a delay, staffers decided to transfer Glenda to the hospital. Glenda's husband discovered staffers attempting unsuccessfully to transfer Glenda from a wheelchair to a staffer's car. He helped them get Glenda into the car. With the IV still in her arm, Glenda was driven to HCA Memorial Hospital. She had no blood pressure and almost no pulse upon arrival. Glenda fell into a coma, and died three days later.

Watch Lime 5: Coma on YouTube.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

New to Me: The Death of Kawaida Espenrace at A - Z Women's Center

Kawaida Espenrace was a 27-year-old resident of Las Vegas. She was a widow and the mother of three young children. 

On November 3, 2007, she went to A-Z Women's Center in Las Vegas for an abortion after being referred by Planned Parenthood. Her last period had been on August 25, which would have made her 10 weeks pregnant. The notes at the clinic note her as 14 weeks by ultrasound.

Dr. Adam Vincent Levy began the abortion at 1:03 pm and completed it at 1:32 pm. He noted administration of methergine, which is used to prevent and control postpartum hemorrhage at 1:24.

On Kawaida's chart, Levy circled "yes" for "Extensive Blood Loss?" but "no" for "Any Complications?" After her abortion her level of consciousness was noted as "Confused." An illegible note says includes the word "floppy" in quotation marks and "ie atony" double underlined.

Kawaida's recovery room chart noted checks at 20-minute intervals. Her blood pressure and pulse appeared to be stable in the 120/75 range. Her bleeding was noted as "sm" at 1:40, 2:00, and 2:20. However, "sm" is circled then crossed out and "hvy" circled at 2:40.

At 2:52 pm staff gave Kawaida another dose of methergine.

Adam Levy
At 2:55, per Levy's orders, Kawaida was given 100 mg of cytotec orally. 

At 2:55 pm, A-Z staff finally summoned EMS to transport Kawaida to a hospital for appropriate care. By then it was too late to save her. Kawaida bled to death that evening.

Autopsy revealed that Levy had improperly inserted the suction cannula, punching a hole in Kawaida's uterus and causing a two-inch laceration to tissues, vein, and artery outside the uterus. 

Kawaida's family sued on behalf of her three orphaned children but the case was dismissed due to errors made by the family's attorneys.

Source: Court documents and attachments

November 24, 1907 and 1916: More Mysterious Chicago Abortion Deaths

Once again I am stuck with only the information from the Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database.

On November 24, 1916, 24-year-old Mrs. M. Marazak died at Chicago's West Side Hospital from an abortion performed by an unknown perpetrator.

On November 24, 1907, homemaker Lizzie Paulson, age 38, died at County Hospital in Chicago from an abortion performed that day. John and Minnie Nelson were arrested and held without bail. John Nelson was sentenced to Joliet for his role in Lizzie's death. John Nelson's profession is given as "outside labor force" and "abortion provider", so likely he was a professional lay abortionist. According to Cook County death records, Lizzie was a widow, which might have been a large part of her reason for undergoing an abortion.

November 24, 1984: The Dreadful Thanksgiving Surprise

 Eighteen year old Michelle Madden, a freshman at Mobile College, sought a safe and legal abortion from O.B. Evans at Family Planning Medical Center of Mobile, Alabama. It was performed on November 18, 1986. According to the friend who had accompanied Michelle to the abortion facility, Michelle had chosen abortion because a doctor had told her that her baby would have birth defects due to Michelle's epilepsy medication.

That very day, Michelle's parents were preparing to go to Mississippi to spend Thanksgiving with Mrs. Madden's brother. They got a call from Michelle's roommate telling them that their daughter was sick.

"We didn't think anything of it. We told her we were going to come the next day to pick her up," Michelle's mother told the Mobile Press Register. But before they could leave home the next day, the house mother at the dorm called, asking if Michelle had gynecological problems. Again, the parents weren't particularly concerned. At that point, they weren't even aware that their daughter had been pregnant.

When they arrived at the dorm, they were told that Michelle was in the hospital. "We called the hospital and they said she was in surgery." They were at the hospital for an hour until the doctor finally came to them and told them that Michelle had undergone an abortion. When they were operating on Michelle, doctors told her parents, they found a leg bone, two pieces of skull, and some placenta still in Michelle's uterus.

"From what he told me at that point," said Mrs. Madden, a nurse, "I knew that for her to live would be a miracle, on the order of the Lord raising Lazarus from the dead. She was in such bad shape I didn't see how she could make it."

Michelle's mother was sadly right. Sepsis had already set in, and Michelle remained on life support dying on November 24. Her parents sued Evans and the facility, and in 1991 a jury awarded them $10 million in damages. 

Watch the YouTube video.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Lime 5: Abscess

Death for which I need sources

On July 6, 1970, "Lisa" took advantage of the six-day-old liberalization of abortion-on-demand in New York. She suffered a uterine perforation during the procedure. Several days later, doctors drained and removed a dead fetus from a pelvic abscess. A surgeon also performed a hysterectomy to try to save her life, but she died 23 days later. (Obstetrics and Gynecology, March 1974)

Documented death with conflicting information

The next death, "Sharon," is most likely Sharon Floyd. She was 18 when she underwent an abortion by John Roe 224 on April 11, 1975. Two days later she became ill and was admitted to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with acute septicemia with pelvic, subphrenic, and retroperitoneal abscesses. She died on April 29. However, there's some confusion between sources, so I need to get a copy of her death certificate, Illinois No. 611030.

Non-fatal, need sources

"Adrianne" underwent an abortion in Chicago on May 12, 1977. While in the recovery room she reported severe pain to the nurse. John Roe 667, who had performed the abortion, prescribed pain pills and discharged her. Adrianne called back two days later to say she was still in pain. Roe diagnosed a tipped uterus and prescribed rest and more pain pills. Four days later, still in pain, Adrianne again called the clinic. Roe told her to meet him at the hospital. There he told her that she was hemorrhaging, prescribed antibiotics and rest, and sent her home. Finally Adrianne ended up at another hospital, where she underwent a D&C. She had suffered a perforated uterus, pelvic abscess, peritonitis, and recurring infections. (Cook County Circuit Court Case No. 97L 10033)

John Roe 747 performed an abortion on "Juana" on September 13, 1986. He perforated her uterus and bowel, so she was admitted to a local hospital later that day. On September 16, she underwent a D&C, during which doctors found that she had an incomplete septic abortion and possibly a tubo-ovarian abscess. She was transferred to the intensive care unit the next day and underwent surgery to treat intraabdominal sepsis and a pelvic abscess. She was hospitalized for a total of five weeks. (Los Angles County Superior Court Case No. SEC61659)

"Debra" underwent an abortion performed by John Roe 542 in Chicago on October 24, 1987. She had to have a colostomy and corrective surgery for a retrovaginal defect and intraabdominal abscesses. (Cook County Circuit Court Case No. 89L 15261)

"Diona" went to a Planned Parenthood facility in Philadelphia for pre-abortion counseling and a gonorrhea culture on August 30, 1990. Rather than wait for the results of the STD test, John Roe 143 performed an abortion and discharged his patient. Diona called on September 2, and again on September 3, reporting cramps and a fever, but she was unable to speak to anybody. They returned her call on September 4 and told her that since her fever was only 99.5 she should just continue taking Tylenol. They did not advise her that they had gotten the results of her gonorrhea culture back and they were positive. Diona's condition continued to worsen, so on September 11 she was admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with bilateral tubo-ovarian abscesses. She underwent a laparoscopy, pelvic laparotomy, removal of adhesions, drainage of abscesses, and a D&C. It was only after Diona was hospitalized that Planned Parenthood informed her of the positive STD test. (Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Case No. 92-04-683)

Watch Lime 5: Abscess on YouTube.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

November 22, 1917 and 1913: Mystery Abortions in Chicago

On November 22, 1917, 20-year-old Helen Devora died at Chicago's West End Hospital from an abortion performed by an unknown perpetrator.

Four years to the day earlier, 33-year-old Hulda Tubbin died in Chicago, at the scene of an abortion perpetrated that day by Dr. Olaf Olson. Though Olson was indicted for felony murder, the case never went to trial.

November 22, 1897: Was This Dr. Hall's Second Abortion Death?

Summary: Newlywed Ida Coakley's body was intercepted as the ferry was about to leave San Francisco for Irvington: Was she an abortionist's victim?

Something's Not Right

On November 23, 1897, a police boarded a ferry about to depart San Francisco for Irvington. They seized a coffin. The deceased was 24-year-old Ida Lyon Coakley, a homemaker who had only been married to John Coakley, a farmer, for two months. 

John reported that he'd taken Ida to the office of Dr. Samuel H. Hall, at 445 McAllister Street in San Francisco, the previous day to be treated for a heart problem. He had left the doctor's office and returned that evening only to find his wife dead. She had passed away at around 6:00 pm. Her body was whisked away to the funeral establishment of James Hagan at 10:00 that night

Frank Ralph, night watchman at the nearby Hibernia Bank, saw the undertaker's wagon pull up and the workers carry a coffin into the house. Mr. Ralph 
had found the clandestine removal of a body from Dr. Hall's premises at that time of night fishy. He spoke to the driver while the undertaker and his assistant went inside. The driver told Mr. Ralph that a woman from Irvington had just died there. The watchman contacted the police. Deputy Coroner McCormack, who should have been notified about any death, went to Hall's house and was told that there had been no death there.

McCormack went to the Health Office and found a certificate signed by Hall and counter-signed by Assistant City Physician McMurdo, stating that Mrs. Coakley had died from a cardiac aneurism. Clearly, then, there had been a death and there was something fishy about it.  McCormack contacted the undertaker, who told him that the body was on the way to the ferry. Thus the interruption of the funeral. Ida's body was taken for an autopsy, and a coroner's jury convened. 

The Coroner's Jury

Undertaker Hagan said that due to Hall's unsavory reputation, he feared that he'd be unable to get the permit to ship Ida's body to Irvington as requested. He went to McMurdo's house that same night asking him for the countersignature due to Hall's "peculiar reputation." McMurdo went to the undertaking establishment early the next morning, superficially examined Ida's body, and asked John Coakley to provide a written statement that he had brought Ida to Hall for treatment for heart trouble. Evidently believing that this covered him legally, McMurdo countersigned the death certificate. By doing this, the San Francisco Chronicle noted, McMurdo "has put himself in an awkward position professionally, if he has not jeopardized his newly secured position."

On the advice of their attorneys, both Hall and Coakley refused to testify before the coroner's jury.

John Coakley at first stood by his claim that he'd taken Ida to Hall's practice for a heart ailment, but while hanging about the morgue making arrangements to remove Ida's body to Irvington he told conflicting stories about why he and Ida were staying at Hall's practice rather than at their usual hotel.

admitted that he had taken Ida to Hall the previous week and asked if an abortion would be safe for her. When Hall had assured him that it would be safe, John had paid $50 and Hall had promptly took Ida into a procedure room. A few minutes later, Hall had returned, told John that Ida had been fine, and sent her home.

Dr. Hall's daughter, Josephine Wells, testified that Ida had come to the McAllister Street house at about noon on the Saturday before her death. Hall had asked to use Josephine's room for a couple of days to care for Ida, whom Hall told Josephine suffered heart disease. Ida was sitting in a chair by the fire the following Monday when she died at about 6 o'clock in the evening. 

They concluded:

That Mrs. Ida Coakley, aged 24 years, nativity California, occupation housewife, residence Irvington, Alameda county, came to her death November 22, 1897, at 14 McAllister street, from septicaemia, following an attempt at abortion; and we further find that deceased came to her death from the effects of a criminal operation performed by Dr. Samuel H. Hall, and we further find that John Coakley was an accessory to the same crime.

Arrests and Trials

Hall was arrested when he arrived in San Jose to visit his wife and daughter. He said that he'd not known that Ida had been pregnant when she and her husband had come to his office on Saturday. He'd treated her with morphine and nitroglycerin. On Monday she seemed okay, he said, but he left her for a while only to return to his office and find her dead. He said that he assumed that she must have died from an aneurysm.

John Coakley was arrested as well, but the charges were dropped during the first trial in order to loosen his tongue against Hall. 

Coakley testified, "My wife and I came to the city from Irvington, Alameda county, on Friday, the 19th of last November, and called on Dr. Hall. I asked him if he could perform the operation, and he said he could. I asked if there was any danger, and he replied that there was no more danger than in walking across the street. My wife was fearful of the consequences and also asked him whether there was any danger. His reply was that same as to me. This allayed her fears and she consented."

"Dr. Hall told us to come to him the next day, and we did so. Immediately after our arrival Dr. Hall took my wife into a small room. They were gone five or six minutes. When they returned he charged me $50, which I paid."

"Then Dr. Hall asked where we were staying and when I told him we were hiring rooms he said we need not go to that expense, as he would furnish a place for Mrs. Coakley until she got well. We all thought she was getting along nicely, but she took a turn for the worse and died on the 22nd."

On cross-examination, Dr. Hall's attorney brought out all of John Coakley's previous conflicting statements about his wife's health and the reason for the visit to Dr. Hall. At one point he blurted out, "What I said was not true, but I said so because Dr. Hall told me to." The defense objected that this statement was not in response to a question and got the utterance stricken from the record.

Dr. Hall's daughter, Josephine Wells, testified that Ida has seemed okay but suddenly had trouble breathing. Hall went into the room to check on her and a few minutes later came out and said, "My God, she's dead."

Dr. J. Webster, a defense witness, testified that Ida might indeed have died from a heart ailment.

The trial resulted in a hung jury, voting seven to five for acquittal. 

A second trial against Hall ended in acquittal after Coakley fled the state, leaving the prosecution minus the prime witness.

Hall had already been twice tried for the 1891 abortion death of Ida Shaddock. The first trial ended in a hung jury and the second, three years later and after several key witnesses had moved away or died, resulted in acquittal.

Newly added sources: