Tuesday, January 31, 2023

January 31, 1972: Antiquated Abortion Method Kills Teen

Fifteen-year-old Gwendolyn Drummer was a student at Harry Ellis High in Richmond, California, when she was admitted to Doctor's Hospital of Pinole for a safe and legal abortion, to be performed January 28, 1972. Her doctor chose the hypertonic saline method. These abortions are performed by replacing amniotic fluid with a strong salt solution. 

The saline abortion method was being abandoned in countries where abortion was legal.  Two Japanese doctors, Takahsi Wagatsuma and Yukio Manabe, warned western physicians about the high risk of serious injuries and maternal deaths. A British study published in 1966 found that the saline could enter the mother's bloodstream and cause brain damage. Swedish researchers noticed an unacceptably high rate of complications and deaths. Sweden and the Soviet Union followed Japan in abandoning saline abortion as too dangerous by the late 1960s.

But as laws loosened up in the US, American doctors adopted the saline abortion method. So in 1972, with over a decade of warning not to do so, Gwendolyn's doctor injected saline into her uterus. It got into her blood stream, just as British, Japanese, Soviet, and Swedish doctors had repeatedly warned it could do. Gwendolyn suffered organ damage. She subsequently developed pneumonia, and died on January 31.

Watch Antiquated Abortion Method Kills 15-Year-Old on YouTube.


  • California Certificate of Death, File, 72-032193
  • Contra Costa County (CA) Coroner’s Report, Case, CR-72-122

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