SUMMARY: "Serena," age 22, died around 1980 due to a botched abortion.


In their 1979-1980 Abortion Surveillance, the Centers for Disease Control staff describe an abortion death that took place during the period of 1972-1980. To avoid depersonalizing her, I'll call her Serena.

Serena was a 22-year-old unmarried nursing student when she became pregnant. Her parents told CDC staff that Serena had no boyfriend. Serena had been pregnant once before, 8 years earlier, and had undergone an induced abortion. This leads me to believe that Serena died in some time between 1978 and 1980, since the CDC makes no mention of any health issues that would have facilitated an abortion prior to 1970, when states first started allowing elective abortions, and doesn't say that the previous abortion was illegal.

Serena lived in the dormitory on the campus of her school, in a large Southern city. She was living on scholarship money supplemented by her parents. She had private insurance and was eligible for Medicaid.

The CDC staff found no evidence that Serena used contraception or sought care at a family-planning facility. Her mother and sister both said that Serena believed that contraception was "against nature" and would "cause complications."

Serena went to a private abortion clinic when she was 8 weeks pregnant. The staff there noted no complications, and discharged Serena a few hours after the suction procedure. She paid out-of-pocket for the abortion.

Two days later, Serena went to the emergency room of her university's hospital, reporting abdominal pain. She was lethargic, with blood pressure of 40/20, respiration of 28, and a pulse of 64. Her abdomen was rigid, distended, and tender. She was in so much pain that it was difficult to perform a pelvic examination.

Serena was admitted, with a diagnosis of uterine rupture and sepsis. An IV was started with ampicillin, clindamycin, and gentamicin.

It was only after Serena's admission to the hospital that her parents learned of her pregnancy. Serena's mother told CDC staff that she would have tried to convince her daughter to carry to term had she known of Serena's situation.

Four hours after she was admitted, Serena started having trouble breathing. She was entubated for ventillation.

Two hours later, hospital staff performed an exploratory laparotomy. They removed three liters of clotted blood from her abdominal cavity and repaired a perforation in her uterus. She was stable during surgery and was given three units of blood.

Five minutes after Serena was transferred into the recovery room, she went into cardiac arrest. Staff resuscitated her and transferred her to the Intensive Care Unit. On x-ray, she was found to have pulmonary edema. Serena remained comatose until her death one month later. No autopsy was performed. Her death was attributed to cardiopulmonary arrest due to septic shock and hemorrhage due to the uterine perforation.

The CDC blamed Serena's death on her failure to use contraceptives, her abortionist's failure to diagnose the perforated uterus, Serena's delay in seeking medical care after her abortion, a possibly excessive amount of intravenous fluid administered by the hospital, and postponing the transfusions until after the surgery.

Source: CDC 1979-1980 Abortion Surveillance


  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