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Read This First:
How can you know how much you can trust what you are told by a prolife or prochoice organization's communications? How do you know if what a web site or newsletter says is accurate or not?
There is one easy rule to follow: Truthful sites provide reliable sources for their information.
As you look over the information on the Cemetery of Choice, you'll find that whenever possible, I provide either links to information or actual copies of documents such as news articles and death certificates. In other cases, I at least cite my sources in a way that they can be researched and verified.
Are other sources as reliable? Do they tell you where they got the information upon which they are basing their claims? If they don't, why not?
If there are conflicting claims, such as prolife versus prochoice assertions about the death of
, check to see which site provides more reliable sources. In Becky's case, prochoice sites provide only assertions made by other abortion rights organizations or statements made by Becky's parents, who were recruited and coached by abortion-rights organizations. Prolife sites typically quote a crucial source: Becky's actual autopsy report,* which shows her reproductive organs to be perfectly healthy. Which sources can you trust?
Consider also the case of
. Prochoice pages typically post the following unsubstantiated story verbatim:
Pauline Shirley and her six children were living with her mother in Arizona while her husband sought work in California. After an illegal abortion, she began to hemorrhage and was hospitalized. She needed massive transfusions. While Pauline’s mother searched the community for donors, Pauline bled to death.
I looked deeper and found an original and reliable source: Pauline's death certificate, which indicated that she died not from an induced abortion but from a miscarriage. Perhaps a family member saw "incomplete abortion, spontaneous" and didn't understand that a spontaneous abortion is the medical term for a miscarriage. My write-up of Pauline's death actually includes an image of the death certificate. Whose word is more trustworthy: the one based on the actual death certificate, or the unsubstantiated one repeated uncritically?
Never, never take anything you are told without question. Check the original sources.
*I read Becky Bell's autopsy report myself shortly after abortion-rights groups began taking them on speaking engagements around the country. I'm still trying to find an online copy and as soon as I find one I will share it, as I share my other sources.
SUMMARY: Helen Noah, age 34, died in Pittsburgh's Presbyterian Hospital on February 16, 1917 from complications of a self-induced abortion.
The testimony E. G. Noah gave to the Allegheny County coroner's jury did little to clarify the circumstances surrounding the death of his 34-year-old wife, Helen. He said she'd been “flooding” on Sunday, December 14, 1917 and had gone to Dr. W. J. Connelly, who had prescribed medicine for her. She'd gone back again later and been told that she had “inflammation of the womb.”
On February 3, he said, she'd informed him “that her monthly had just appeared and she had used a catheter to see if they would not appear.”
On February 5, she took to her bed. Connelly came to check on her, and she told him about the catheter. He continued to care for her, finally summoning an ambulance and admitting her to Pittsburgh's Presbyterian Hospital on February 9. There she was treated for massive infection until her death at 2:58 p.m. On February 16.
Evidently the coroner's jury was able to make enough sense of Mr. Noah's testimony to conclude that Helen died of “
Puerpueral Septicemia Following Self Inflicted Abortion
Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good.
In fact, due to improvements in addressing these problems, maternal mortality in general (and abortion mortality with it) fell dramatically in the 20th Century, decades before Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion across America.
For more information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see
Abortion Deaths 1910-1919
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see
The Bad Old Days of Abortion
Allegheny County Coroner's summary on Case No. 191802-188;
Coroner Case File
abortionists -- female
abortionists -- male
delay in transport
delay in treatment
district of columbia
former criminal abortionist
illegal - doctor
illegal - midwife
illegal - nurse
illegal - paramedical
illegal - post roe
illegal - unknown
illegal - untrained
national abortion federation
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