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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.
The steady fall in abortion deaths during the 20th century resumed during the 1960s after the leveling-off in the 1950s.
A snapshot of what abortion mortality numbers were like during the late 1950s and early 1960s can be found in "
Abortion Deaths in California
," by Leon Parrish Fox, published in the
American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
on July 1, 1967
From August 1957 through December, 1965, the five District Maternal Study Committees in California counted a total of 223 abortion deaths (criminal, miscarriages, and undetermined). With California accounting for 323,944 of 1,330,414 reported abortions in 1993 (24%), we can estimate that California likewise accounted for roughly 24% of criminal abortions before legalization.
If claims of 5,000 to 10,000 maternal deaths from criminal abortion alone were correct, California should have been counting 1,200 to 2,400 maternal deaths from criminal abortions alone per year, not including miscarriages.
If California accounted for about 24% criminal abortions, we'd have been seeing 125 deaths from all abortions annually in the United States during the period 1957 to 1965. When you consider that the official toll fell from 260 in 1957 to 90 (total legal, criminal, miscarriages, and undetermined) in 1972, 125 deaths per year in that time period seems pretty accurate.
As states began loosening abortion laws, more women began dying from legal abortions during this time.
News coverage of individual abortion deaths during the 1960s began to be drowned out by coverage of calls for legalization of abortion. Strangely, as abortion deaths became less of a problem, they became more of a cause.
Women's Stories from the 1960s
Abortionist and/or facility listed, if known
by Time Frame
, July 30, 1960 Age: 23
Possibly lay abortionist Mae Etta Scott, Seattle, WA
January 21, 1961 Age: 23
Dr. Mandel Friedman, New York
Martha Jean Moore
, July 18, 1961 Age: 19
Lay abortionist Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff Harold Pearl
, July 23, 1961 Age: 28
Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA
Delores Mae Siddall
, August 23, 1961 Age: 29
Lay abortionist Hugh McLeod Pheaster, Long Beach, CA
March 25, 1962 Age: 33
Dr. J. W. Bryan Henrie, Grove, OK
June 3, 1962, Age: 19
Dr. Harvey Lothringer, Queens, NY
September 11, 1962 Age: 35
Dr. Mandel Friedman, New York
, February 1, 1963 Age: 20
Lay abortionist Lee Blue, Capital Hill, WA
October 7, 1963 Age: 21
Undetermined perpetrator, Detroit, MI
, April 9, 1964 Age 27
Unspecified California hospital
June 8, 1964 Age: 28
Boyfriend Clyde Dixon, Norwich, CT
, December 4, 1965 Age: 33
Dr. Benjamin Lockhart, New York
January 22, 1966 Age: 19
Boyfriend/surgical technician Rodney G. Powers, Newport, KY
February 8, 1967 Age: 24
Lay abortionist Jack Blight, Washington
March 6, 1967 Age: 22
Husband Ronald Staley, Olympia, WA
December 30, 1967 Age: 19
Dr. Benjamin King, Pittsburgh, PA
February 8, 1968 Age: 19
Dr. Richard Mucie, Kansas City, MO
, April 13, 1968 Age: 42
Unspecified California hospital
, April 6, 1969 Age: 35
Dr. Virgil Jobe, Oklahoma City, OK
Victoria Lyn Anderson
, April 28, 1969
Hospital orderly Enrico Tyson, Hennepin County, MN
August 16, 1969 Age: 17
Fresno General Hospital, Fresno, CA
The Colonial Era
The 19th Century
A question mark (?) after
a person's name
indicates that there can
be some question of
whether the person
actually perpetrated the
This would include cases
in which a person died
prior to trial, a case
never made it to trial, a
person won a new
trial on appeal, or a
person was acquitted
but I have been
unable to determine why.
In many cases, an
acquittal does not mean
that the person did not
perform the abortion.
In some cases the
jury might have decided
that the abortion was
legally and thus the
woman's death was
accident, not homicide.
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