Is a re­turn to ‘back-al­ley’ abor­tions now in sight?

Baltimore Sun - - NATION - Dr. Leon Re­in­stein, Bal­ti­more

My pa­tient was a 21-year-old woman ad­mit­ted to the hos­pi­tal with “the flu.” She had a three-day his­tory of fever and not feel­ing well. She had no other com­plaints. She did not have a his­tory of any other med­i­cal prob­lems. Her tem­per­a­ture was el­e­vated at 102 de­grees. The re­main­der of the phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion was nor­mal. Lab­o­ra­tory stud­ies showed an in­creased white cell count, in­di­cat­ing an acute in­fec­tion. Other lab­o­ra­tory stud­ies and a ch­est X-ray were all nor­mal.

Sev­eral hours later, her tem­per­a­ture in­creased to 104 de­grees. She be­gan ex­pe­ri­enc­ing shak­ing chills, and her blood pres­sure dropped sig­nif­i­cantly. She was in sep­tic shock. She was trans­ferred to the in­ten­sive-care unit. Mul­ti­ple tests were per­formed, but we still could not find the source of her in­fec­tion. We gave her mas­sive doses of in­tra­venous an­tibi­otics. Ten hours af­ter ad­mis­sion, she had a full car­diac ar­rest. We worked on her for 45 min­utes. Ul­ti­mately, our re­sus­ci­ta­tion ef­forts were un­suc­cess­ful and she died.

We ob­tained a post-mortem ex­am­i­na­tion. It in­di­cated that she had had an at­tempted il­le­gal abor­tion in a non­med­i­cal fa­cil­ity prior to com­ing to the hos­pi­tal. How­ever, be­cause of fear and shame, she did not tell this to us. Un­for­tu­nately, the com­plete fe­tus had not been ex­pelled dur­ing the il­le­gal abor­tion. This pro­duced the mas­sive in­fec­tion which caused her death. The year was 1970, three years be­fore the Roe v. Wade de­ci­sion which al­lowed le­gal abor­tion.

If abor­tion be­comes il­le­gal again (“Even if Roe stands, abor­tion rights could be cut,” July 10), will we have “déjà vu all over again?” How many more women will die at­tempt­ing to have a “back-al­ley abor­tion?”

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