SUMMARY: Erika Peterson, age 28, died on July 23, 1961 from complications of a legal abortion performed at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, CA.

Erika C. Peterson, age 28, was admitted to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California on July 11, 1961, due to trouble breathing. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and placed in a tank respirator. Erika was at that time in the first trimester of pregnancy. Her physicians made the decision to abort her child as soon as she was well enough to undergo the abortion. Abortion was, at that time, legal only to try to save the life of the mother.

On July 21, Erika's condition had improved, and her husband signed the consent form for the abortion, which was scheduled to take place two days later.

The abortion was started as scheduled on July 23. Erika went into cardiac arrest during the procedure and was unable to be resuscitated. The abortion that was intended to save her life ended her life instead.

After autopsy, it was believed that Erika's original illness was caused by a hereditary disease that was exacerbated by the medications she was taking for her schizophrenia.

Erika's was not the only tragic death caused by doctors who recommended (or excused) abortion as a life-saving or health-preserving option for the mother:
  • Allegra Roseberry was pushed into an abortion in order to obtain experimental cancer treatment.
  • Anjelica Duarte sought an abortion on the advice of her physician, and ended up dying under the care of a quack.
  • Barbara Hoppert died after an abortion recommended due to a congenital heart problem.
  • Christin Gilbert died after an abortion George Tiller holds was justified on grounds of maternal health.
  • "Molly" Roe died in 1975 when her doctors made the dubious decision to perform a saline abortion to improve her chances of surviving a lupus crisis.


In the 1960s, we see the 20th Century downward trend in abortion mortality resumed -- until a brief upturn starting in 1968, when some states first started loosening their abortion laws. For more, see Abortion Deaths in the 1960's.

For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

Sources:California Certificate of Death, File # 61-081581; San Diego County Coroner's Report # 37646


  1. 1900s
  2. 1910-1919
  3. 1920s
  4. 1930s
  5. 1940s
  6. 1950s
  7. 1960s
  8. 1970s
  9. 1980s
  10. 1990s
  11. 19th century
  12. 2000-2009
  13. 20s
  14. 30s
  15. 40s
  16. NAF
  17. abortifacient
  18. abortion
  19. abortion mill
  20. abortion mortality
  21. abortionists
  22. abortionists -- female
  23. abortionists -- male
  24. alabama
  25. anesthesia
  26. arizona
  27. black women
  28. born alive
  29. botched abortion
  30. california
  31. chicago
  32. colorado
  33. connecticut
  34. cover-up
  35. death
  36. deaths
  37. deception
  38. delay in transport
  39. delay in treatment
  40. district of columbia
  41. dumped body
  42. ectopic
  43. embolism
  44. falsifying forms
  45. fetal indications
  46. florida
  47. former criminal abortionist
  48. george tiller
  49. georgia
  50. hemorrhage death
  51. hospitals
  52. illegal - doctor
  53. illegal - midwife
  54. illegal - nurse
  55. illegal - paramedical
  56. illegal - post roe
  57. illegal - unknown
  58. illegal - untrained
  59. illegal abortion
  60. illinois
  61. inadequate documents
  62. inadequate equipment
  63. inadequate resuscitation
  64. incomplete abortion
  65. indiana
  66. infection
  67. kansas
  68. llinois
  69. louisiana
  70. maryland
  71. massachusetts
  72. maternal indications
  73. maternal mortality
  74. michigan
  75. mills
  76. missouri
  77. mortality
  78. national abortion federation
  79. new jersey
  80. new mexico
  81. new york
  82. north carolina
  83. ohio
  84. oklahoma
  85. pennsylvania
  86. planned parenthood
  87. pre-roe legal
  88. previous misconduct
  89. prostaglandin
  90. quackery
  91. questionable stories
  92. ru-486
  93. rupture
  94. saline
  95. secret abortion
  96. self-induced
  97. suicide
  98. teens
  99. texas
  100. wisconsin