Wednesday, June 19, 2024

June 19, 1984: Mom Finds Teen Dead on Bathroom 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.


Deceived or lying?
Abortion advocates argue that although legal abortion deaths like Gwen's are indeed sad, they're only a pale shadow of the carnage that would ensue were legal protection restored to unborn children. They use these claims to garner support among those otherwise reluctant to support legal abortion as well as to slander life advocates.

There are two approaches Big Abortion takes when trying to scare people into supporting legal abortion as a means of protecting women's lives:

Outright lying. They will trot out the long-disproven claim that 5,000 to 10,000 women were dying every year from abortion before legalization.

Bernard Nathanson, co-founder of NARAL,* admitted that he and his associates knew that the claims of 5,000 to 10,000 criminal abortion deaths were false. They bandied them about anyway, Nathanson confessed, because they were useful. This, too, is old news -- Nathanson came clean in 1979 when he published Aborting America.

Lying by omission. They will use numbers that are accurate, but will totally remove them from context in order to draw a conclusion that is demonstrably false. which typically involves taking fairly reliable abortion mortality numbers from before and after legalization then crediting legalization for the drop. No less prestigious organization than the Alan Guttmacher Institute uses this statistical legerdemain: "As the availability of legally induced abortion increased, mortality due to abortion dropped sharply: The number of abortion-related deaths per million live births fell from nearly 40 in 1970 to eight in 1976."

The truth is that you can take virtually any time period from when public health officials first started collecting the data and you'll find that abortion mortality fell. The only exception is a strange leveling-off in the 1950s that I've been unable to account for:

Milan Vuitch
What caused abortion mortality to fall precipitously wasn't legalization. Legalization didn't even make a blip in the trends, likely because for every non-physician whose business fell away, a physician abortionist became sloppy once the risk of a prison sentence for botching an abortion was gone. I know of three erstwhile criminal abortionists -- Jesse KetchumMilan Vuitch, and Benjamin Munson -- who kept their noses clean prior to legalization but each went on to practice appallingly sloppy abortions that killed two patients after legalization.

*National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, later renamed National Abortion Rights Association, now called NARAL Pro-Choice America

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