Barbaralee Davisteens, 1970s, nationalabortionfederation, hemorrhagedeathSUMMARY: Barbaralee Davis, age 18, bled to death on June 14, 1977 after an abortion performed by Hector Zavalos at Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, IL.
Eighteen-year-old Barbaralee Davis called a local women’s group for a safe and legal abortion referral. They sent her to a member of the newly founded National Abortion Federation, Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois.
After the abortion, performed June 14, 1977 by Hope Medical Director Hector Zavalos, Barbaralee attended a post-abortion counseling session, during which she was pale and reporting lower abdominal cramping. She was kept for observation an additional two hours, but the CDC noted that Barbaralee’s vital signs were last noted 45 minutes after the abortion.
Barbaralee then reportedly told staff that she felt better and asked to be sent home, so they discharged her even though she was still showing, according to the CDC’s investigators, symptoms “suggestive of internal hemorrhage.”
Barbaralee’s sister, Rita, said that she had become worried because the abortion seemed to be taking a long time. A man came out, she said, and told Rita that there had been complications but everything was fine.
Barbaralee was not given a discharge examination before being sent home. Rita helped her, pale and bleeding, to the car. Barbaralee slept in the back seat the whole way home, approximately a two-hour trip. Her sister helped her to bed.
When Rita checked on her several hours later, Barbaralee was unresponsive. She was rushed to the Pickneyville hospital, where an emergency hysterectomy was attempted to save her life. Barbaralee died during the surgery, leaving her three-year-old son without a mother.
The autopsy found the face and spinal column of Barbaralee’s baby embedded in a hole in her uterus. There were two quarts of blood in her abdomen. Barbaralee had bled to death.
The medical examiner noted: “A very large retroperitoneal hematoma is present with dissection of blood along right ureter. A 4 cm. tear is noted on the right anterior surface of the lower third of the uterus and a large amount of blood, estimated at 2000 ccs. is present in the pelvis. Two fetal parts, the face and thoracic spinal column, are embedded in a 700 cc. fresh hematoma inside the uterus.”
Illinois law placed a 12-week limit on outpatient abortions. Zavalos told CDC investigators that he thought Barbaralee had been only 11 weeks pregnant even though her last normal menstrual period had been five months earlier. The clinic records examined by CDC staff said that the gross examination of the fetal tissue removed during the abortion was consistent with an 11-week pregnancy. However, the medical examiner drew a different conclusion, based on the tissue that had been left embedded in Barbaralee’s uterus:
In an attempt to estimate the length of gestation in the absence of the whole fetus, the two parts, namely the face, less the crown, and the thoracic vertebral column without the rump, are laid end to end. Together they measure 9 cm. A conservative estimate of the crown to rump length would be 10 to 11 cm. This will place the gestational age at 16 to 16 1/2 weeks.
Hope Clinic for Women was not only permitted to remain in operation, it was allowed to remain a member in good standing of the National Abortion Federation.
As you can see from the graph below, abortion deaths were falling dramatically before legalization. This steep fall had been in place for decades. To argue that legalization lowered abortion mortality simply isn’t supported by the data.
- The Wanderer, 10/13/77;
- “$1 million abortion suit in teen’s death,” Chicago Tribune, August 31, 1977, p. 1:6;
- Perry County (IL) Coroner’s Report 6/20/77;
- “Abortion Clinic Sued In Death,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 15, 1979, 3A;
- CDC Abortion Surveillance Annual Summary 1977, p. 10-12
- “$1 Million Lawsuit Pending In S. Illinois Abortion Death,” Mt Vernon (IL) Register News, August 30, 1977
- “Byron assigns abortion death investigator,” Edwardsville (IL) Intelligencer, Thursday, Sept 1, 1977
- “Pro-life group blasts abortion practices of Hope Clinic,” Edwardsville (IL) Intelligencer, Tuesday, August 30, 1977
- “The Abortion Profiteers” series, Chicago Sun-Times, 1978
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