Sunday, May 21, 2017

Fatal Abortions in Different Eras

Scanty Info on Safe-and-Legal Death

Little is known about Sharon Margrave, but on May 21, 1970, she died following a safe and legal abortion in Los Angeles County, California. She was 25 years old, a native of Oregon.


Third Known Death of a Gertrude Pitkanen Patient
A B&W portrait of a middle-aged, plump white woman with round eyeglasses and short, curly, dark hair.
Gertrude Pitkanen
On May 21, 1939, 37-year-old widow Hilja Johnson of Butte, Montana, died at Butte's Murray Hospital from septic complications of an incomplete abortion. Since her death certificate says, "Infection from gas producing bacteria," she most likely died from a Clostridium perfringens infection, most commonly known as gas gangrene.
A surgical nurse, Gertrude Pitkanen, admitted at the coroner's inquest that Hilja had come to her office, and that she had later visited Hilka at her home and advised her to go to a hospital. Pitkanen was charged with murder in Hilja's death.

She fled, but was located about a year later, living near Columbia Gardens. She was brought to court in a wheelchair, pleaded innocent, and was jailed in lieu of $5,000 bond. The charges were dropped in 1940, for reasons not reported.< Pitkanen had earlier been charged with the abortion deaths of Violet Morse (August, 1929) and Margie Fraser (October, 1936). The fact that Pitkanen had married a former Butte police detective might explain the lack of prosecution in spite of the multiple deaths.


Mystery Abortion in Pittsburgh

According to her husband, Baptist, 26-year-old Pittsburgh homemaker Mary Jane Douds had been in ill health for four years. When he'd come home from work on the morning of Monday, May 18, 1900, he found her sick in bed. He wanted to call a doctor, but “she would not have it.” Baptist figured that his wife must be menstruating, since she always had difficult periods.

When he came home on Saturday, he found Mary Jane in even worse condition. He sent for Dr. Staub, who treated her four or five times before recommending that she go to the hospital on Sunday. Mary Jane refused, asking for her old doctor, Dr. Heurits of Turtle Creek, who came to the house at about noon.

Heurits examined Mary Jane, and said “there was no danger for her to keep quiet and she would be all right in a few days.” He prescribed medication for Mary Jane, but she couldn't keep it down.

Baptist sent for another doctor, J.J. Green, who arrived at about 8:30 on the evening of May 20, then sent for his assistant, who stayed to provide care to Mary Jane under Green's supervision until about 3 a.m. She got weaker and finally lost consciousness a few minutes before her death at around 9:00 a.m. On May 21.

Green diagnosed her cause of death as septic peritonitis from an abortion performed by an unknown perpetrator.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Claim of Medical Necessity and Other Pre-Legalization Deaths

A Claim of Necessity

Dr. Claude C. Long ran a rather fishy medical practice in San Francisco. He, his wife Isabel, and a relative named Ann Fisher, were charged with the May 20, 1937 murder of 26-year-old Genevieve Arganbright. Genevieve was, according to her husband, Perry, about 2 1/2 months pregnant at the time of her death. She had been in good health, athletic, and in the habit of taking long hikes, dancing, swimming, and playing tennis.

On the evening of Genevieve told her husband she going for her abortion, which she had scheduled by phone the previous day. She brought with her $50 that she had borrowed to pay for the abortion.  That was the last time Mr. Arganbright saw his wife. Nobody at Dr. Long's practice called to tell him that his wife had died on the operating table.
Dr. Long did, however, have Mrs. Fisher make a phone call to a Dr. Goldsand, who verified that Genevieve was dead and refused Long's request that he sign a death certificate.  The next call made from Long's office was to an undertaker's office. When two employees arrived to collect Genevieve's body at about 2:30 the morning of the 21st, Dr. Long wasn't present. Mrs. Long and Mrs. Fisher said that Dr. Goldsand had been the attending physician and that he would sign the death certificate in the morning.
The men took Genevieve's body to the mortuary, where the embalming was done in the morning. But when no relatives called to finalize arrangements, and nobody produced a death certificate, the undertaker notified the coroner.

While things were getting squirrely at the mortuary, Dr. and Mrs. Long were making tracks to a hotel.

While all this was going on, nobody had even tried to contact Genevieve's husband. It wasn't until later that day, when the police arrived, that Mr. Arganbright learned that his wife was dead.
Dr. and Mrs. Long were arrested at the Cecil Hotel on May 22.

The prosecution argued that the abortion had not been medically indicated by Genevieve's heart condition, and that even if it had been, Long's lack of due diligence had caused her death anyway. If the abortion had been elective, and thus illegal, Long was guilty of murder in Genevieve's death. If the abortion had really been to try to prevent Genevieve's death from pregnancy stress on her heart, but had been negligently performed, Long was guilty of manslaughter. And if the abortion had been medically indicated and properly performed -- if Genevieve had died from her pre-existing heart condition -- then Long was not guilty of any crime.

Long did not deny that he treated Genevieve on May 20. He said that she had not come specifically for an abortion, but was certain that she was pregnant, and that she was constantly tired, with chest pain, palpitations, and shortness of breath, all indications of heart problems. Long said that he then informed Genevieve that her heart was in very bad shape and that he recommended an immediate therapeutic abortion to prevent her death.

Expert testimony agreed that Genevieve did indeed have mitral stenosis, but there was no agreement on whether or not it warranted an abortion. The surgeon who performed the autopsy, and a pathologist from the coroner's office, both testified that Genevieve's heart was not at all enlarged. Her mitral stenosis seemed stable, and their expert testimony was that Genevieve would have likely tolerated pregnancy and delivery quite well.
Dr. Carr, the pathologist, testified that a patient sick enough to require an abortion would also have been too sick to simply perform one on the spot; a conscientious physician would have sought a consultation with a cardiologist, and would have hospitalized the patient for some time before the abortion in order to ensure that she was strong enough to survive the surgery. He also noted that the agony of having one's cervix ripped off would be enough in itself to cause shock in a patient with a weak heart.

All of these factors were indicative of lack of due diligence on Long's part in performing the abortion, regardless of his reasons for performing it. At the very least, if he really was performing the abortion due to concerns about Genevieve's heart problems, he was guilty of manslaughter for performing an outpatient surgery and ripping his patient's internal organs so badly.

Long was granted his request for a new trial, and his conviction overturned, on the grounds that the judge had improperly instructed the jury, placing the onus on the defense to prove the abortion had been medically indicated, rather than on the prosecution to prove that it had not been.


One of Three Dead Patients of Dr. Justin Mitchell
A middle-aged white man with dark hair and a high forehead, wearing a light colored suit and dark tie
Dr. Justin Mitchell
In May of 1934, 22-year-old Mary Schwartz asked Marie Hansen, a coworker at the Illinois Meat Company in Chicago, to help her arrange an abortion. Marie took Mary to Dr. Justin L. Mitchell's office south of Chicago's meatpacking district. Marie had undergone an abortion at Mitchell's hands three years earlier, and, telling him that her friend “wants to get fixed up,” she negotiated a discount from the usual price of $50 to $30. Marie co-signed on a $25 loan, and lent Mary $5 “in dimes” from her own money.

The next morning, the two women again went to Mitchell's office. Marie waited outside during the abortion, then took Mary home with her to recover. That evening, Mary took ill, so Marie called Mitchell and told him that Mary “was bad sick.” Mitchell told Marie to give Mary castor oil, and place warm towels on her abdomen to help with the pain. This did not alleviate Mary's pain, so on Marie took her back to Mitchell's office on Thursday evening and Friday morning.

At 4:00 Saturday morning, Marie was very concerned and called Mary's lover, Joe Henja, who was a foreman at the meat plant. Joe complied with Marie's request that he come right away and get Mary. He called his own doctor then rushed Mary to a hospital, where Mary died on May 20, 1934.

 Mittchell was later implicated in the abortion deaths of Alice Haggin and Mary Nowalowski in 1936.


Two Deaths in One Month

On May 20, 1870, Matilda Henningsen died at No. 182 East Seventh Street in Brooklyn. Matilda's sister, Henrietta Henningsen, testified that she recognized clothes and other items belonging to her sister. Matilda had been sick about two months earlier, and had been treated by Dr. Herzog and Dr. Kennerer. Shortly after having taken ill, Matilda told Henrietta that she'd gotten an invitation to go to Williamsburgh, and that was the last Henrietta had seen of her sister.
Dr. Joseph B. Chshman testified as to the post-mortem examination he had performed. He said he found all the evidence of uterine infection and resulting peritonitis, resulting from an abortion.
Mr. A. A. Wolff, from Denmark, purported to be a physician, but is not identified as such in the source document. Six fetuses, along with various instruments, were found in his office. The jury determined that Wolff had performed the fatal abortion.

Wolff was also implicated in the abortion death of Henrietta Ullman less than a month after Matilda's death.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Habitual Killers

Nearly all of today's deaths are connected with facilities or practitioners with multiple abortion deaths to their discredit.

One of Three Deaths at Detroit NAF Member

Bald, middle-aged physician in his lab coat, with light from venitian blinds shinging on his face
Dr. Alberto Hodari
Chivon Williams, just days short of her 17th birthday, died on May 19, 1995 after an abortion performed by National Abortion Federation member Alberto Hodari in Detroit. According to a lawsuit, a suction abortion was performed on Chivon at about 11:30 a.m. She was discharged from the facility at about 1:10 p.m. even though she reported stomach and chest pains. A short time after returning home, she was found unresponsive, and pronounced dead at 5:17 p.m. Fieger Times, a newsletter put out by the law firm representing Tamiia's family, states that Chivon had been in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Hodari was also implicated in the abortion deaths of 15-year-old Tamiia Russell and of Regina Johnson.


One of Sixteen Deaths at National Abortion Federation Member


The letters "FPA" inside a box superimposed upon a large cursive letter F
Susan Levy was 30 years old when she underwent a safe and legal abortion at the Family Planning Associates in Mission Hills, California on April 9, 1992. FPA is a member of the National Abortion Federation.  Susan, originally from Florida, was homeless and was living in a car owned by a friend. On May 19, 1992, she was found dead in that car. The cause of death was determined to be from an infection that developed from fetal tissue that was not removed during her abortion.
Other abortion patients to have died at FPA facilities include:

An "Unknown" Abortion in California

The autopsy report for 22-year-old Joan Camp attributed her death to "complications apparently as a result of a recent termination of pregnancy."  Joan had been found unconscious in the morning on May 18, 1985. She was rushed to Memorial Hospital in San Leandro, California, where doctors tried to save her life.  Their efforts were futile. Joan died the next morning, May 19, 1985, from clots in her lungs.
 
The CDC classified Joan's death as "unknown" abortion, because they could not find out where the abortion was done. The CDC does not count an abortion death as a legal abortion death unless they can verify that the person who performed the abortion was a licensed physician, or another legally qualified medical professional in states that allow non-physician abortions.


 One of Six Deaths Blamed on Dr. Lou E. Davis

Low-quality newspaper picture of a white woman, in profile, with short curly light-colored hair and a dark hat coming to a sharp peak at the back
Dr. Lou E. Davis
Irene Kirschner, age 24, died on May 19, 1932 after an abortion believed to have been perpetrated by Dr. Lou E. Davis. When police went to arrest Davis for Irene's death, they found another abortion-injured woman at her house but no sign of Davis.
 
Davis was also implicated in five other Chicago abortion deaths:  Anna Adler in 1913, Mary Whitney in 1924, Anna Borndal and Esther V. Wahlstrom in 1928, and Gertrude Gaesswitz in 1934.
 
 
One of Four Deaths Linked to Dr. Charles Cobel 
 
On May 19, 1858, 28-year-old Amelia Weber died at the home of 58-year-old Dr. Charles Cobel in Brooklyn and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery. The undertaker testified that Cobel had engaged him to perform the funeral, and that he had collected Amelia's body from Cobel's garret. Cobel attributed Amelia's death to paralysis.

"[F]rom the privacy of the burial and other mysterious circumstances surrounding the case, the body, six days after interment, was ordered by the Coroner to be exhumed for medical examination."

The witnesses at the inquest included Amelia's husband, who kept a hotel in Schobaria County, New York. Testimony indicated that Amelia had left her home and three children in Warrenville a few days before her death, supposedly to visit friends in Brooklyn and to do some shopping. Instead, Amelia went directly to Cobel's house, arriving on May 8.

The inquest findings included:

"Dr. Cobel received an application from Mrs. Weber, who had left home for that purpose with her husband's consent, on the 8th instant, to produce an abortion upon her person, he did so, and violent inflammation supervened, which baffled his skill. He then called Dr. Kertachmann, pretending that the lungs were the seat of disease, but it was to no purpose."

The autopsy revealed noting at all wrong with Amelia other than an abdominal infection caused by the abortion and bringing about her death.

Cobel was indicted for manslaughter in Amelia's death on November 30, 1861. On January 23, 1862 he was tried and found not guilty of manslaughter in the second degree, but guilty of the misdemeanor charge of using instruments on a pregnant woman with intent to cause abortion.

Cobel successfully appealed the misdemeanor conviction on the grounds that he couldn't simultaneously be guilty of performing the abortion yet not guilty of causing Amelia's death by performing the abortion. Cobel, a known abortionist, was also implicated in the deaths of Antoinette Fennor, Catharine DeBreuxal, and Emma Wolfer.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Was Anna Albers Really Responsible?

On May 16, 1916, 25-year-old Lucile Bersworth died in Chicago's German-American hospital after telling authorities that Dr. Anna Albers had perpetrated an abortion on her.

She also mentioned a man named Fred Krause, so he might have been her baby's father.

Though Albers was held by the coroner and indicted by a Grand Jury, the case never went to trial. She was rather a respectable physician, at least as of 1912, so she seems an unlikely abortionist.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Safe and Legal in New York

"Roxanne" was 17 years old when she decided to take advantage of New York's new abortion law, and traveled there from Michigan to have a first-trimester abortion in a doctor's office. The doctor gave her sedatives and local anesthesia to begin the abortion on May 13, 1972. But before the abortion could be started, Roxanne started to have convulsions and went into cardiac arrest.  Roxanne was taken to an area hospital, but she was declared dead on arrival.  An investigation into the case revealed that the doctor had exceeded the recommended dose of the local anesthesetic.

The 1970 liberalization of abortion had made New York an abortion mecca until the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling that abortionists could legally set up shop in any state of the union. In addition to "Roxanne," these are the women I know of who had the dubious benefit of dying from the newfangled safe-and-legal kind of abortion in pre-Roe New York:
  • Pearl Schwier, July, 1970, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • Carmen Rodriguez, July, 1970, salt solution intended to kill the fetus accidentally injected into her bloodstream
  • Barbara Riley, July, 1970, sickle-cell crisis triggered by abortion recommended by doctor due to her sickle cell disease
  • "Amanda" Roe, September, 1970, sent back to her home in Indiana with an untreated hole poked in her uterus
  • Maria Ortega, October, 1970, fetus shoved through her uterus into her pelvic cavity then left there
  • "Kimberly" Roe, December, 1970, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • "Amy" Roe, January, 1971, massive pulmonary embolism
  • "Andrea" Roe, January, 1971, overwhelming infection
  • "Sandra" Roe, April, 1971, committed suicide due to post-abortion remorse
  • "Anita" Roe, May, 1971, bled to death in her home during process of outpatient saline abortion
  • Margaret Smith, June 1971, hemorrhage from multiple lacerations during outpatient hysterotomy abortion
  • "Annie" Roe, June, 1971, cardiac arrest during anesthesia
  • "Audrey" Roe, July, 1971, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • "Vicki" Roe, August, 1971, post-abortion infection
  • "April" Roe, August, 1971, injected with saline for outpatient abortion, went into shock and died
  • "Barbara" Roe, September, 1971, cardiac arrest after saline injection for abortion
  • "Tammy" Roe, October, 1971, massive post-abortion infection
  • Carole Schaner, October, 1971, hemorrhage from multiple lacerations during outpatient hysterotomy abortion
  • "Beth" Roe, December, 1971, saline injection meant to kill fetus accidentally injected into her bloodstream
  • "Roseann" Roe, February, 1971, vomiting with seizures causing pneumonia after saline abortion
  • "Connie" Roe, March, 1972, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • "Julie" Roe, April, 1972, holes torn in her uterus and bowel
  • "Robin" Roe, May, 1972, lingering abortion complications
  • "Danielle" Roe, May, 1972, air in her bloodstream

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Century and More of Fatal Abortions

1994: Safe, Legal Abortion Kills Teen in Atlanta

Fifteen-year-old Sara Neibel went to Midtown Hospital in Atlanta for a safe and legal abortion at 17 weeks. She was given a clean bill of health and sent home.

The next day, she reported a severe headache, sore neck, neck stiffness, and trouble seeing. Her parents began the drive to take her to the hospital. On the way there, Sara began screaming and behaving strangely. When they got to the hospital, she refused to get out of the car. She was disoriented and stuporous upon admission.

Sara went into respiratory arrest, and was admitted to the ICU. She was pronounced dead May 11, 1994. The cause of death was determined to be Group B Streptococci Meningitis caused by infected amniotic fluid in her bloodstream. The autopsy performed on Sara found dead tissue and a fetal bone fragment in her infected uterus.


1992: Antiquated Abortion Method Proves Fatal in Brooklyn

"Melissa" is one of the women Life Dynamics identifies on their "Blackmun Wall" as having been killed by a safe and legal abortion. Melissa was 27 years old and five months pregnant when she checked into Lutheran Medical Center of Brooklyn on May 1, 1992. For some reason, her doctor chose the dangerous and antiquated saline abortion procedure. She died of complications on May 11.


1981: Sloppy Practices Kill Student in Long Island

A lawsuit filed by the father of Barbara Dillon, a 22-year-old college student, alleged that Barbara underwent a safe and legal abortion performed by Dr. Mark Silver at Long Island Gynecological Group April 18, 1981. Barbara's father said that the pathology report identified placental tissue, but no fetal parts. This meant that something had gone wrong, and that Barbara needed medical care, but nobody contacted her to tell her this.

Barbara suffered pain and bleeding from May 5. She went to the emergency room and was treated with antibiotics and advised to see her family doctor. She was in severe pain later that day, so her roommates called the emergency room again. They were told to give the antibiotics more time.

Barbara's pain did not abate. On May 10, her roommates got a neighbor to take Barbara to the university health center. Barbara was unconscious upon arrival, with no respiration, blood pressure, or pulse, and was rushed to the emergency room. There were delays finding a doctor from the clinic who would aid the emergency room physician in addressing Barbara's symptoms. She went into irreversible shock and died on May 11. It turned out that Barbara had an ectopic pregnancy which the clinic had failed to detect. Barbara's father also sued Silver over his daughter's death.

Even though, in theory, women who choose abortion should be less likely to die of ectopic pregnancy complications, experiences shows that they're actually more likely to die, due to sloppy practices by abortion practitioners.


1884: Unidentified Perp Kills Young Chicago Woman

On May 11, 1884, a young woman who had given her name as Alice Brown died at the Chicago residence of Mrs. R. A. Hough. She was identified as 20-year-old Lottie Hudson of Austin, Illinois.

She had gone to Chicago to live with a man identified as C. O. Owen, "a printer who already had a wife and family." He was boarding with Lottie's mother, Mrs. Hudson, who had visited Lottie twice at Mrs. Hough's home during her illness.

It was determined that Lottie had died from blood poisoning due to an abortion, believed to be perpetrated by a doctor whose name neither Lottie nor Mrs. Hough either could or would divulge.

On the day of the funeral, Mrs. Hough went to Mrs. Hudson's house and "was decidedly uneasy during the forenoon." At 11 a.m., Hough asked Mrs. Hudson to leave with her because the police would soon come to arrest them since they'd not called in a doctor to attend to Lottie as she was dying.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Legal or Illegal? A Chicago Abortion in 1901

At 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 9, 1901, Jessie Matteson, a 22-year-old homemaker, died from an illegal abortion in Chicago. She had been sick for about a week. Jessie's husband, Guy, was arrested, as was Dr. J.B. Butts, who was held by Coroner's Inquest on May 16. Jessie and Guy had only been married since the previous Thanksgiving. Guy was described in the Belvedere Daily Republican as "connected with a Chicago publishing house."

Jessie was a 1899 graduate of South Belvidere High School. She was a teacher in the Witbeck and Hicks schools prior to her marriage.

Butts held that while he did perform an abortion on Jessie, he had only done so because she had health problems that would have made childbirth dangerous. During their trial, the judge dismissed the charges against both Jessie's husband and Dr. Butts on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence for a conviction.