Women Are Dying From “Safe And Legal” Abortions


Janet A. Morana Executive Director, Priests for Life
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Eight months after Cree Erwin-Sheppard died following an abortion at Planned Parenthood in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the Calhoun County Medical Examiner has finally produced a death certificate.  Although an autopsy revealed she suffered a uterine perforation, likely during the abortion or the subsequent placement of an IUD, Ms. Erwin-Sheppard’s death has been labeled an accident and blamed on methadone.

Suspiciously – but not surprisingly — the most important parts of the death certificate have been redacted.

Here’s what we definitely know about Ms. Erwin-Sheppard, thanks to the work of Operation Rescue and Michigan pro-life activist Lynn Mills:

The 24-year-old factory worker, the mother of one son, had an abortion at Planned Parenthood in Kalamazoo on June 30. Abortionist Laura Castleman wrote a prescription for pain pills after the abortion and IUD placement.  That prescription apparently was never filled.

Suffering from terrible abdominal pain, Ms. Erwin-Sheppard was taken to the emergency room at Bronson Battle Creek Hospital on July 2 and later released. She stayed at her mother’s house, where she was found dead on the morning of July 4.

The Medical Examiner’s redactions and the blame-the-victim cause of death certainly suggest that someone in Calhoun County was trying to protect Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. This comes as no surprise to those of us in pro-life work.  Abortion deaths only rarely become public knowledge.

In November 2016, the Centers for Disease Control reported that abortion rates had fallen to the lowest level since before Roe v. Wade legalized the deadly procedure in 1973. That was the good news.

But the CDC also reported bad news: Women continue to die from legal abortion. Of course, we know this is true but the numbers were somewhat surprising.

The report noted that four women died from legal abortion in 2012, but the only one most of us in pro-life were aware of was Tonya Reaves, who died after a botched second-trimester abortion at another Planned Parenthood, this one in the Chicago area. The nation’s largest abortion business paid the young woman’s family – including her young son — more than $2 million for taking the woman’s life.

Who are these other three women who died from abortion? We don’t know.

The CDC reported two deaths from 2011 and we were not aware of these either. In 2010, 10 women died at the hands of abortionists, and yet we knew only of Alexandra Nunez, a 37-year-old mother of four who died after an abortion in Queens.

The eight abortion deaths in 2009 included Karnamaya Mongar, killed by notorious abortionist Kermit Gosnell, now serving life in federal prison.  Another was Ying Chen, a 30-year-old woman who died from a reaction to anesthesia during a second-trimester abortion in a filthy California acupuncture clinic that doubled as a killing center. That leaves six women whose deaths we did not know about.

In 2008 there were 12 abortion deaths. We knew of none of these.

The number of women killed by legal abortion has dropped significantly since the early days of Roe v. Wade, when 108 women died between 1973 and 1977.

When compared to the millions of abortions performed during those years, the fraction of women who died along with their children is very small. But how many deaths are too many? Many of these women left behind young children. What if one of these women was your wife, or your daughter, or your sister? Would you be consoled by the fact that millions of other women lived through the procedure? I doubt it. The truth is that women have died from legal abortion every single year since Roe v. Wade.

And while the report covers 2013, it does not list abortion deaths for that year. Here’s what we know:  In February 2013, late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart performed an abortion at 33 weeks on Jennifer Morbelli in Maryland. She and her daughter – whom doctors warned would suffer from a seizure disorder – wound up buried together when the abortion proved fatal to both.

That same month, also in Maryland, 38-year-old Maria Santiago died two days after a first-trimester abortion.

Did more women die in 2013?

In 2014, we know that Lakisha Wilson died after a second-trimester abortion in Cleveland. Were there others?

We have no recorded abortion deaths from 2015. Will the eventual CDC report from that year show that women did indeed die?

Two women died in 2016, both in July, Ms. Ewrin-Sheppard and Jamie Lee Morales. Ms. Morales, 30, of Buffalo, bled to death after a second-trimester abortion in Queens. Will a future CDC report reveal more tragedy than that?

This is an overarching problem with abortion – we just don’t know the truth about it. Abortion is one of the most common elective surgeries and the American public has a right to know how many women are dying, and why, from this “safe and legal” procedure.

But judging from the amount of time it took the Medical Examiner in Calhoun County to produce a death certificate for Ms. Erwin-Sheppard, and the truth it covered up with black boxes, we may never reach a time in this country when the medical establishment and the media will tell the truth about abortion.