Sherryl Parker

Sherryl Parker1970s, colorado, abortifacient, selfinduced, illegalpostroeSUMMARY: “Sherryl Parker,” age 18, died on November 22, 1978 in Colorado after ingesting pennyroyal oil in an abortion and/or suicide attempt.

On November 15, 1978, an 18-year-old girl was admitted to the Denver General Hospital emergency room. She was suffering from nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Her mood was alternating between agitation and lethargy. I have identified one 18-year-old girl recorded as dying in Denver that month and will give her the pseudonym “Sheryl Parker.”

She reported having believed that she was pregnant — though she had menstruated only three weeks previously — and drinking two half-ounce bottle of pennyroyal oil. Since she had also been seriously depressed, doctors were unsure whether to consider her ingestion of pennyroyal as an abortion attempt or as a suicide attempt.

Sherryl had used pennyroyal tea in the past to start her periods when she’d thought that she was pregnant. She’d become ill within a few hours of drinking the oil.

A medical botanist, Dr. Walter Lewis, wrote about the case:

  • Within two hours she vomited blood and bled from the vagina and eyes. By the third day her liver was damaged. On the sixth day, she sank into a coma and died on the seventh day.

This would indicate that Sherryl died on November 22.

Upon autopsy it became clear that Sherryl had not even been pregnant. The pennyroyal oil had done such serious damage to her liver that portions of it had died.

During her hospitalization she, like Kris Humphry, had developed disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC, a disorder in which the blood can no longer clot). It was eventually the hemorrhagic damage to her liver that caused her death.

The Centers for Disease Control investigated Sherryl’s death, along with other deaths from illegal abortion. They concluded that she, like the others whose deaths they studied, had sought an abortion outside the medical establishment for “idiosyncratic reasons.” The possibility that Sharran was suicidal is also in keeping with the findings of Nancy Howell Lee, published in The Search for an Abortionist, that women who made clearly dangerous abortion attempts had self-destructive mental health issues.

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.

external image Abortion+Deaths+Since+1960.jpg
Sources:

  • Lifestyle on Trial
  • Abstract, “Pennyroyal Oil Poisoning and Hepatotoxicity,” Sullivan et. al., Journal of the American Medical Association1979;242(26):2873-2874
  • Drug Record: Pennyroyal Oil (Mentha Pulegium), LiverTox, National Library of Medicine
  • Social Security Death Index for SS# 523-04-0277
  • “Fatality and Illness Associated with Consumption of Pennyroyal Oil — Colorado,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Dec. 22, 1978

PennyroyalCDC.png


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