Saturday, February 11, 2017

Fatal Teen Abortions and Other Cases

High Risk Abortion in a Low-Risk Setting, 1992

DaNette Pergusson, a 19-year-old medical assistant, submitted to a safe, legal abortion on February 11, 1992, at the hands of Robert Tarnis of Phoenix, Arizona.

Danette had a rare condition called
Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency , a hereditary blood disorder that made her a very high-risk patient for an abortion. Dr. Thomas Murphy Goodwin, a high-risk OB/GYN, pointed out in later court proceedings that any abortion on a woman with PKD should have been done in a hospital, and special steps should have been taken to prevent possible fatal clots from forming in DaNette's blood stream.

During the abortion, DaNette stopped breathing, and paramedics were summoned.

The Maricopa County deputy medical examiner determined that DaNette died from a
pulmonary embolism, which is when blood flow in the lungs is blocked by material such as a clot.

A Teen's Secret Abortion, 1985

It's the call every parent dreads. Ruth was no exception. Her 13-year-old daughter, Dawn, was active in the church where both her parents were ministers. The family sang Gospel songs together. Dawn was a dream child -- the kid who did her homework without being told, who liked to surprise her mother by cleaning the house. She was what's known in the vernacular as "a good girl." Her parents never expected any trouble about Dawn.

What Ruth didn't know was that Dawn had slipped off her pedestal, had engaged in a dalliance with a 15-year-old Romeo. And when she learned that she was pregnant, she knew her parents would be crushed. She went to a teacher for advice. The teacher and a counselor arranged to take care of the whole mess so that Dawn's parents would never have to know. The boyfriend borrowed a credit card from a relative to pay for the risky, expensive, second-trimester abortion.

The counselor at Eastern Women's Center (a National Abortion Federation member) had seen how frightened Dawn was, and had marked on her chart that she should be treated with "tender loving care." But abortionist Alan Kline had his own ideas about what constituted "tender loving care." According to the suit filed by Dawn's parents, anesthetist Robert Augente didn't administer enough anesthesia to get the frightened child through the entire procedure. About halfway through, she began to cough, vomit, and choke. Abortionist Kline put a breathing tube in Dawn's throat, put her aside, and left her unattended to lapse into a coma. Dawn was eventually rushed to the hospital, where it finally occurred to somebody to do the obvious: call Dawn's mother.

"They told me I had to get down to St. Luke's right away, that Dawn was at that hospital fighting for her life," Ruth Ravenell later said. "I was going, 'How can she be fighting for her life? She left for school this morning, looking healthy, never been sick.' While I was there at the hospital -- they were doing tests -- I had to keep my hand pressed over my mouth to keep from screaming in horror. I kept going, 'This is all a bad dream. I am going to wake up and this will not have happened.'"

Day after day Dawn's family gathered at her bedside, talking to her, playing tapes of the family singing together, trying to lure her back from the brink of death -- all to no avail. Dawn died three weeks after her abortion, on February 11, 1985, without ever having regained consciousness.

The family sued and won, but as the New York Post headline pointed out, "$1.2M Won't Bring Her Back." The story featured a photo of Dawn at her junior high graduation, in cap and gown, gazing out smiling at a future she would never have.

No Justice for Eva, 1916

On February 11, 1916, 42-year-old Eva Krakonowicz died in her Chicago home from an abortion perpetrated that day by midwife Agnes Dzugas. Dzugas was held by the coroner and indicted by a Grand Jury on February 1, but the case never went to trial.

An Abortion and a Suicide, 1905

On February 11, 1905, 17-year-old Leona Loveless died in the Ischua, New York home of Dayton M. Hibner, where she had been working as a domestic for two years. She had gotten the job with the assistance of her grandmother, but over the objections of her widowed father, Abram.

Leona reportedly had been in good health until about 5:15 p.m., when she was found in her room in great pain. She died about fifteen minutes later, and the coroner was notified and an autopsy conducted in anticipation of an inquest. Hibner quipped to the coroner that he was going to blow his brains out and end the matter.

Whether because of this comment or because of other suspicious happenings or rumors, law enforcement sent a guard home with Hibner to stay with him pending the completion of the coroner's inquest.

Saying he was going to feed his horses, Hibner left the guard at his house and went into the barn and got out a double-barreled shotgun. His first shot, to the chest, took a downward trajectory that wasn't fatal. He finished himself off with a second blast that took off the top of his head.

Hibner's 52-year-old wife was left devastated. Dayton Hibner had been her second husband. Her first husband, Mr. Beebe, had died by hanging himself.

"The coroner made discoveries after the girl's death, which, if proved, would have made the lynching of the suicide among the possibilities had he not taken his own life," the Lake Shore News noted.

Even getting Leona's body to the family home in Wolcott proved difficult. Her grandmother, Mrs. Sherman, and her cousin, Maude Legg, only made the journey from Ischua as far as Niagara Falls before being stopped by winter storms. A relative of Maude's, who had worked for the railroad, managed to arrange a special train for the journey to be completed.

A Shocking Journey, 1879

On February 11, 1879, 65-year-old Henry Sammis of Northport, Long Island, got a dispatch from Inspector Murray of the Brooklyn police to go to Brooklyn immediately. His daughter, 21-year-old Cora Sammis, a Sunday School teacher from Northport, Long Island, was deathly ill.

Mr. Sammis, a coal and lumber dealer, boarded the next train with his wife. About halfway to New York, he got a copy of the morning paper. There he read that his daughter had already died from the results of a botched abortion.

"I was almost paralyzed with horror, and count not believe the story to be true," he told the New York Herald. Fearful of upsetting his wife, Mr. Sammis kept his composure. Pretending to be adjusting the window on the car, he let the newspaper fly.

Once they got to the home of Mr. Sammis's sister, he broke the news to his wife. Leaving her in the care of friends, he went to the police station and was given the address where his daughter had died.

"The old man's eyes were red with weeping" as he left the police station. He was escorted to the upstairs front room where Cora, "clad in a blue merino wrapper, lay on the bed on which she had died."

Cora had been a lovely girl, with "luxuriant dark brown hair." But when her father saw her body, "Her features had become so shrunken and emaciated that he hardly knew her. He stooped and kissed her forehead, and, controlling himself, arose and looked at her for a long time in silence.

The police asked him about Frank Cosgrove. Mr. Sammis said that the family knew him well. He had been courting Cora for about two years, and the couple had become engaged and had planned to marry before the spring. Cosgrove, who worked in the shipping business, had seemed to have honorable intentions, and Cora had seemed to be of a chaste disposition. A resident of Newport said, "She was the last girl in the village that I could have suppose could be tempted."

However, in November of 1878, Cora had gone to Brooklyn to visit her aunt, and Cosgrove spent a lot of time in her company. Her parents believed that it was during this time that the liaison took place which had resulted in Cora's pregnancy.

Cora's body was taken to the coroner's office, where an autopsy was performed "which showed conclusively that death had resulted from malpractice."

Cora's aunt, Mary D. Betts, testified that Cora and her "alleged seducer," Frank Cosgrove, had met at her house and from there went to the home of 35-year-old Bertha Berger.

About two hours after they arrived at the house, Berger perpetrated the abortion. Cora was to convalesce there but instead grew increasingly ill. Cosgrove, who sat up with Cora every night, grew more and more worried. He found an ad for Dr. Whitehead, who advertised that he practiced midwifery, and offered him $100 to take over Cora's care.

Upon examining Cora, Whitehead found that she had a raging fever from a uterine infection. He declared that the case was hopeless. Berger offered him $50 to provide a death certificate but on the advice of his attorney Whitehead refused, instead notifying the authorities.

Police came to Berger's house to question Cora, who was told that she was dying. With frequent rests she was able to give a deathbed statement, occasionally stopping "to lament her unhappy fate." As the detective bent close to hear her, Cora clasped him and asked him to pray for her and to "Spare my Frank." Her primary concern was that no harm would come to her fiancé.

Cora said that she and Frank had rented the room for the express purpose of having Berger perpetrate the abortion. In fact, the Berger house was an abortion house. All but one of the other occupants of the house were arrested along with Berger.

A Wife's Request, 1861

During early 1861, a German physician by the name of John H. Joecken was caring for Mr. Malinken, who was ailing in his Brooklyn home.

On one of his visits, Malinken's 35-year-old wife, Caroline, approached Joecken privately and told him "she did not want to have so many children, and wished to know if it was possible to get rid of her present burthen. The doctor replied that it was the easiest thing imaginable, and that in eight days all would be over."

Joecken set to work on Caroline, "and by the use of drugs as well as instruments succeeded in making her very sick." Over the course of several days her condition deteriorated. She died late Monday night, February 11.

The coroner's jury concluded that Caroline had died from "pyemia, supervening upon metritis, consequent of an abortion produced at the hands of Dr. Joecken." Joecken was arrested.

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