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Their Last Choice

What the CDC Found and What They Missed

In 1997, Kevin Sherlock published the second of his two abortion expose books, Victims of Choice.

Sherlock's research recreated part of the CDC's old active abortion mortality surveillance, to wit, checking with state health departments and investigating any apparent abortion-related deaths. Sherlock was unable to completely recreate the old active surveillance, which also included sending out letters to every hospital emergency room, OB/GYN, and General Practitioner in the United States asking for information of abortion deaths they had observed, with a follow-up letter sent to those who did not respond to the first letter. Sherlock also did not have the CDC's authority to obtain records from those states relucant to release them, which might leave other deaths undiscovered. Therefore Sherlock's research can not be said to have noted all the deaths the CDC would have discovered had they not abandoned active surveillance. It does, however, demonstrate clearly that the CDC is overlooking quite a few abortion deaths.

Like the CDC, Sherlock also counted deaths brought to his attention by others.

Due to budget constraints, Sherlock limited his search to the ten-year period of 1980 - 1989.

The table below shows the results for 1980.

CDC Reported Death Possible Matching Sherlock Identified Death
1 Black woman age 20-24 Linda aka Jane Roe of Nashville, age 21, underwent an elective abortion on June 14, 1980. She was admitted later to a Nashville hospital, where she was treated for sepsis and hypovolemic shock due to a perforated uterus. Linda died on July 16.
2 Asian-Pacific woman
age 35-39
No matching death found.
3 Black woman age 20-24 Vanessa aka Jane Roe of Lamar County, age 22, underwent an abortion at a Dallas abortion facility on January 22, 1980, the seventh anniversary of Roe v. Wade. During the abortion, Vanessa went into cardio-respiratory arrest due to an amniotic fluid embolism. CPR performed at the clinic caused a small laceration of Vanessa's liver (a common complicaton of properly-performed CPR) which normally would not be fatal. However, the embolism caused Vanessa to develop disseminated intravascular coagulopahty (DIC), thinning her blood and causing her to bleed to death from the laceration.
4 White woman age 25-29 Betty Damato, age 26, underwent an abortion on February 23, 1980, at the hands of James Franklin in Denver. The abortion was incomplete and Betty developed sepsis and Clostridium perfingrens infection ("gas gangrene") and died on February 25.
5 Black woman age 30-34 Jessie aka Jane Roe of Greene County, age 30, suffered cardiac arrest in a Tuscaloosa hospital July 28, 1980. The doctor who treated her after her admission attributed her death to "septic abortion."
6 Asian-Pacific woman age 30-34 No matching death found.
7 Black woman age 35-39 Jane Roe of Queens, age 36, died in New York City after an abortion.
8 Black woman age 25-29 Monica aka Jane Roe of Miami, age 28, was admitted to a Miami hospital, where she died on August 20, 1980. The medical examiner found a Foley catheter (commonly used in Japan to perform Rivanol and catheter abortions) which had been inserted into Monica's uterus two days earlier. The death was ruled accidental and attributed to endometritis.
9 Black woman age 25-29 Gwnedolyn Cliett, age 29, admitted for an abortion at Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia on March 5, 1980. She reacted to the anesthesia and died. The death was ruled "therapeutic misadventure."
10 Carol aka Jane Roe of Calhoun County, age 29, died at home on January 29, 1980. The coroner ruled the death as due to acute endometritis related to abortion.
11 Georgianna "Jeannie" English, age 32, never awoke from anesthesia administered by DC abortionist Milan Vuitch. She died January 12, 1980.
12 Shirley aka Jane Roe of Savannah, age 30, died in a Savannah hospital on January 12, 1980, from septic pulmonary embolism after a vacuum abortion.
13 Carol aka Jane Roe of Warren County, age 19, died July 5, 1980. The autopsy found a five-month fetus outside the amniotic sac, which
caused hemorrhage and infection. Carol's "post-abortal state" was listed as a contributing cause of death.
14 Marie aka Jane Roe of Oconee County, age 34, was advised by her doctor to undergo an abortion. She did so on May 4, 1980. Three days later she died of respiratory distress and shock attributed to amniotic fluid embolism.

In cases where more than one woman could match a CDC death, I listed the first of Sherlock's possible matches there, and put additional deaths at the bottom of the chart..

If all of Sherlock's possible matches indeed match up to CDC reported deaths, then the total known number of abortion deaths for 1980 was at least 14, not 9 as asserted by the CDC. This means that one researcher acting independently, without access to many resources the CDC could readily use, was able to increase the number of known deaths for 1980 by at least 56%.

Next

Some of the women and girls who made the terminal choice
How Many Women Die?
Recommended Reading
From Back-Alley Butcher to Abortion Provider: The Adventures of Jesse Ketchum
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