SUMMARY: Ann Keenan, age 21, died near Detroit on October 7, 1963 from complications of a criminal abortion. No information is available to me about who performed the abortion.
On October 7, 1963, 21-year-old Ann Keenan died at Wyandotte General Hospital near Detroit. Her cause of death is identified on her death certificate as as “Subarachnoid hemorrhage (a brain bleed) following septic (massively infected) criminal recent abortion with septic thromboembolism pneumonia (an clot getting into her lungs and causing septic pneumonia) and hepatitis with focal necrosis (spots of dead tissue) of liver.”
No indication was made of who performed the abortion.
Ann Keenan was the sister of candidate Mitt Romney’s brother-in-law, Loren Keenan.
During the 2012 Presidential election, Obama supporters dug into the past, and the story of Ann’s tragic death went viral. The meme was that Romney’s current pro-life would “let [her] die again.” His change of stand to one of opposition to abortion was painted as opportunistic and based entirely on polling, not personal conviction. Romney’s opponents, clearly, can not grasp that a mature adult can come to very different conclusions than he might have as a 16-year-old boy.
The coverage was pretty thorough, including quotes from Ann’s friends and relatives. Much was also made of the fact that her parents had requested that memorial funds be given to Planned Parenthood. Little was made of the fact that abortion deaths were becoming more and more rare, thanks to things like blood transfusions and antibiotics.
Exactly who perpetrated the fatal abortion doesn’t seem to pique the interest of those who want to hang her death around her distant-relative-by-marriage’s neck.
More from Salon:
Keenan was born in 1941, the daughter of a Detroit public school English teacher. Her elder brother Loren married Mitt Romney’s elder sister Lynn in the late 1950s. The family lived on Edison Avenue in the well-to-do Boston-Edison neighborhoodin the heart of Detroit….
“She was so intelligent, beautiful and a friend to everyone,” Marilyn Frey, a classmate and friend of Keenan in the 22-member class of 1959 at the all-girls Liggett School, recalled in an email to Salon. In high school, Keenan was active in theater, performing in “The Importance of Being Earnest” and serving for three years on the drama board. She was a scholarship recipient and class president her sophomore year. One of Romney’s sisters was quoted in the press in 1994 recalling that Keenan “was a beautiful, talented girl [whom] we all loved.”
Keenan went on to Michigan State University but little is known about her time there. In 1962, just a year before her death, she appeared in the Grosse Pointe News after she and a young man pleaded guilty to using a fake ID to buy alcohol.
The writer then goes on to speculate about the fatal abortion:
She could, like many women who ended up injured or dead from abortions in that era, have tried to self-induce. Douching with soap or bleach was a “common and frequently fatal method,” though there were many others….”About 90% of illegal abortions were done by doctors, and most of the rest by other medical professionals.Actually, going to a doctor was the most common approach. About 90% of illegal abortions were done by doctors — none of whom, by the way, shelved the abortion tools with legalization. Three of them that I know of — Jesse Ketchum, Milan Vuitch, and Benjamin Munson — had never killed a woman in their criminal practice but went on to kill two patients in the “safe and legal” era.
Those who latched on to the Ann Keenan story would have shown honesty by researching rather than speculating. But if you do a little research, you might find something you don’t want to see. When you’re defending abortion, there’s a lot that you don’t want to see.