About December 14, 1973, 21-year-old Rockland Community College student Beverly Agnes went to a Monsey, New York doctor's office for a safe, legal abortion. She was about five months pregnant.
The doctor chose the risky saline instillation abortion
method that had become popular in the United States in New York and
California in the years immediately before the Roe vs. Wade decision
legalized abortion-on-demand nationwide. This abortion method involves
using a large syringe to remove as much amniotic fluid as possible from
the womb and replace it with a strong salt solution that poisons the
fetus and gives it strong chemical burns both internally and externally.
The visible effects on the skin have led to saline-aborted fetuses to
be dubbed "candy-apple babies" for their raw, red skin. (Graphic image here).
Given the gruesome effects on the fetus, one can imagine the risks to
the mother, which include cardiac arrest, brain damage, and death.
Japan, Sweden, and the Soviet Union had all abandoned the saline
abortion method as far too risky. Doctors in the United States, however,
did not heed the warnings sounded by doctors in other countries. Those
in New York were particularly cavalier about potential maternal injures
and deaths. Like many of his fellows in the Empire State, Beverly's
physician did the saline instillation in his office as an outpatient
Beverly sickened after the saline was injected into her body. Around
December 16, she was admitted to Nyek Hospital. There, doctors
discovered that Beverly's doctor had accidentally injected the saline
into the uterus itself rather than into the amniotic sac. The damage to
the tissues of Beverly's uterus caused an overwhelming infection.
Doctors at Nyek Hospital performed a hysterectomy to remove Beverly's
festering uterus, and administered massive doses of antibiotics.
Their efforts were all in vain. The infection finally ended Beverly's life on December 21.
Medical Examiner Dr. Frederick Zugibe noted that saline instillation was
"quite a common technique" for abortions, and that what Beverly
suffered was "one of [abortion's] hazards. He declared that there was
"no evidence of criminality." Neither the Medical Examiner's Office nor
law enforcement ever released the name of the doctor whose carelessness
cost Beverly Agnes her life.
Beverly's death was the third legal abortion death in the same New York
county since the state had legalized outpatient abortion-on-demand on
July 1, 1970. Edith Clark had died in June of 1971 and Pamela Modugno in May of 1972.