Women Who Died From Lack of a Safe, Legal Abortion 

 

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Clara Bell Duvall 

Dec. 23, 1896 – March 27, 1929

Clara Duvall, her husband, and five children (ages 6 months to 12 years) were living in Pittsburgh, Pa., with her parents due to limited financial resources when she learned she was pregnant again. Clara attempted a self-abortion with a knitting needle. Her doctor, knowing she was seriously ill and in severe pain, delayed sending her to a hospital for several weeks. The Catholic hospital where she died chose to list the cause of death as “pneumonia.”

 

 

Geraldine Santoro

August 16, 1935 – June 8, 1964

The photo of Geraldine Santoro dead on a hotel room floor has become a symbol for the horror of illegal abortion. Gerri, as she was known, lived on her family farm in Coventry, Conn., with her two daughters. At the age of 28, separated from her abusive husband, she became pregnant by another man, Clyde Dixon. Afraid that her husband would kill her if he found out, she and Dixon looked for ways to terminate her pregnancy. With no other options, they attempted to perform the procedure themselves. When the operation went awry, Dixon fled, leaving Santoro behind where she bled to death. A chambermaid found her body the next morning.

 

Pauline Roberson Shirley

June 22, 1910 – August 22, 1940

Pauline Shirley and her six children were living with her mother in Arizona while her husband sought work in California. After an illegal abortion, she began to hemorrhage and was hospitalized. She needed massive transfusions. While Pauline’s mother searched the community for donors, Pauline bled to death.

 

 

 

Rosie Jimenez

1950 – Oct. 3, 1977

A single mother with a 5-year-old daughter, Rosie Jimenez of McAllen, Texas, was a scholarship student six months away from her teaching credential. She was the first known victim of the Hyde Amendment, which cut off Medicaid funding for abortion to women on public assistance — women who by the government’s own definition cannot afford health care. Too poor to pay for the procedure at a private clinic, she died in agony from a botched illegal abortion.

 

 

Becky Bell  

August 24, 1971 – Sept. 16, 1988

At 17, Becky became a victim of an Indiana state law requiring parental consent for a minor to obtain an abortion. Unable to bring herself to disappoint her parents by telling them she was pregnant — or go before a judge to bypass the law — Becky sought an illegal abortion. When she became seriously ill, her parents rushed her to the hospital. In severe pain from a massive infection, Becky still could not tell them, and despite the efforts of the doctors, she died.

 

 

Savita Halappanavar

Died October 28, 2012

Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist, repeatedly asked doctors in a Galway hospital to ter- minate her 17-week fetus. Though she was literally in the process of miscarrying the fetus, the hospital refused to take any actions as long as there was a fetal heartbeat, with one nurse reminding the patient that Ireland is “a Catholic country.” Halappanavar died a few days later. The tragedy justifiably sparked international protest against Ireland’s draconian abortion policies.