Two Senseless Deaths: The Long Road to Recovery
by “Mrs. Julia Taylor”
This year on Mother’s Day, I helped my grandson place flowers on his mother’s grave. Although Justin is only seven years old, he tries to be brave as he honors his mother’s memory. I can’t help thinking how proud she would be.
Justin is bright and beautiful. He reminds me of Mary when she was my little girl. How my heart aches for him. Both his mother and his brother were taken from him, killed by an unwanted and unnecessary abortion. I wish that I could say that she had a peaceful death. Instead, she had a painful, violent, and politicized death, a death that torments our family even today.
Mary was only sixteen when Justin was born. She was unmarried, and bravely accepted the burden of being a single mother. We were proud of her, proud of her desire to protect and preserve Justin’s life when so many would encourage her to abort. The birth of our precious Justin made all of us more pro-life than ever.
Two years after Justin was born, Mary was the victim of a date rape. When the man found out, he tried to make her have an abortion. She refused and would have nothing to do with him.
At first she was planning to place the baby for adoption. Abortion was something she would never consider. But she had been receiving an anti-depressant for bipolar depression, and her psychiatrist told her that there was a 1 in 12 chance that the anti-depressants would cause heart and brain damage to the baby.
Mary was devastated. How could the drugs which had been helping her now be hurting her child? How could she ever have an abortion? She needed expert advice and counseling. She went to a prestigious hospital that specializes in women’s health care. Justin had been born there. The hospital’s Medical-Social Worker (M-SW) promised to help her with information and counseling.
When we arrived for the appointment, the counselor excluded me saying that Mary was eighteen and the session was private. She immediately scheduled Mary for a sonogram. After the sonogram, Mary had another session with the M-SW and was convinced that she had damaged the baby.
After this, Mary indicated to us that she had been told that it would be unfair of her to burden me with helping her to raise a second child, especially one who was handicapped. (I was already helping her with Justin and caring for my husband who is quadriplegic.) When it became clear to us that Mary was being advised to have an abortion, my husband and I reassured her that the psychiatrist’s statistics were really in her favor. There was an 92% chance the baby was fine. Even if the baby did have problems, we could all cope with it together. She did not have to do this. Nor did she want to. But she was feeling as though she had no choice. We assured her that whatever her decision, we would understand and love her with all our hearts. After that she didn’t say anymore about abortion.
But two weeks later the M-SW called our home to speak with Mary. Mary wasn’t home, so I told her that Mary was very depressed and she was crying a great deal of the time. I asked her to please do some fetal testing to reassure Mary that the baby was fine. Her only response was to tell me that she needed to speak with Mary privately.
Mary waited a few days and then called her back. The M-SW immediately scheduled Mary for a pre-admission checkup and an abortion. From this point on Mary became very withdrawn and dependent upon me for everything.
When I took Mary for her pre-admission checkup, I was not permitted to speak to a doctor or ask any questions. Again, my depressed teenage daughter was expected to sign documents and make major health care decisions without support from loved ones.
When the appointment was finished, she told me that the doctor had assured her that the procedure wasn’t bad at all. Then she immediately asked me if she could change her mind at any time. This showed me how fragile and uncertain she really was.
On the day of the abortion my fears began to overwhelm me. But I reasoned that this was the leading women’s hospital in the state. Surely she would receive the best of care. She was in the safest place possible. Still, I had no peace — my 18 week old grandchild was about to die.
A nurse arrived with some papers to fill out. Mary was nervous and having difficulty answering some of the questions. When I helped her the nurse just glared at me. She was clearly annoyed with my presence.
At 12:45 PM the nurse walked Mary to the operating room where they did the instillation of urea which would induce the abortion. When she returned I helped her into bed, covered her, wiped her tears and hugged her. “Oh Mom,” she cried, “that really hurt.” I remember telling her how I was so very sorry for her pain.
I left the hospital at 5:30 to check on Justin. While I was driving home, my husband called. He told Mary how he loved her and would see her soon. They ended their conversation with a simple prayer, a Hail Mary, asking the mother of our Lord to “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” This was the last time he ever spoke to her.
I returned to the hospital that evening and stayed until 11:00 PM when Mary insisted that I go home to be with Justin. I wanted to stay with her, because the abortion had still not been completed, but she assured me she would call if she was lonely. I kissed her goodnight, saying “I love you…see you in the morning.” She looked like a little girl in that bed. It was the last time I saw her alive.
At 9:15 the next morning I received a call from the intensive care unit (ICU). The nurse said, “Something went wrong. It’s very serious.” I flew to the hospital, rushed into the ICU, bursting into the first room I came to. Behind the curtain I could see the outline of a woman and a doctor writing on a chart.
Just then a nurse came up and asked who I wanted to see. I said I was Mary’s mother. She gasped, grabbed my shoulders, and pushed me out of the door. I said I wanted to see her; I wanted her to know I was there. She said I couldn’t go in because they were working on her.
Thank God my friend Charlotte arrived. She sat with me and comforted me. Twice a doctor came out to ask me questions about Mary. Each time I asked to see her and was turned away. Then the room was suddenly filled with white coats. A doctor sat in front of me and held my hands. “My daughter is dead, isn’t she?” He nodded his head, “Yes.”
I could not breathe and felt as if I were sinking into a hole. One of them said they had told Mary I was there. I was less than grateful for that small gesture.
Finally they allowed me to see her. We entered her room and I could hardly believe what I saw. There was my beautiful daughter so horribly disfigured that she was almost unrecognizable. They still had a tube protruding from her mouth and I could see that her teeth and gums were covered with blood. Her eyes were half opened and the whites of her eyes were a dark yellow. Her face was swollen and a deep shade of purple. The left side looked like she had suffered a stroke. The only feature that had not been disfigured was her hair. All I wanted was to hold her. I managed to get an arm around her and to kiss her good-bye.
As they led me back to the waiting room I started to talk about how beautiful Mary was as a baby. I was trying to understand what I had just seen. I was trying desperately to hang on to my sanity. I couldn’t feel my fingers as they dialed my husband. I was in such pain I thought my heart was breaking. I whispered to him that Mary had died. I can still hear his crying.
Mary’s doctor came to me with an autopsy authorization for me to sign. Only now did they need Mary’s mother. Only now was I important enough to sign documents. I signed it, knowing that even more irreverence would be inflicted on Mary’s body, because I had to know what had happened. Why had she died? Why had she died alone, stripped of her pride, her dignity, her self-worth?
I remember riding home searching the sky for some sign that Mary was in heaven. When we arrived home, I was grateful to see the family and friends there with love and support. We needed to focus our attention on Mary’s funeral. Before we arranged for the Mass, I told our pastor that Mary had died from an abortion. We would be burying both of them that day. Now he was able to make sense out of the horrible condition of Mary’s body.
After the autopsy, the funeral home tried several times to make her presentable for viewing. The first viewing was on August 19th, 1989. It was my husband’s 39th birthday. Mary’s body was clothed in her Confirmation dress. In her hands was a small pink bouquet from Justin. Mary’s funeral Mass was a celebration of her life. We wanted God to know that we were grateful for blessing us with this beautiful child. We gave her back to Him with the same love we had for her when we asked for a child of our own.
A month later we met with the coroner to discuss the details of Mary’s autopsy. He avoided fully answering our questions. Instead of a detailed explanation, he advised us to “go home and try not to be ashamed or your daughter.” We had expected an investigation of the hospital’s procedures; instead we received a commentary on our daughter’s virtues. She was just a statistic.
We could not allow Mary’s death to simply be hidden away in a pile of statistics. To learn the truth would require a lawsuit, and this meant that we and Mary would be dragged into the public record and subjected to vicious attacks from defense attorneys. Yet this was our only way to break through the coverup.
It was very difficult to find the right attorney. In desperation I called Vicki Conroy of Legal Action for Women. She gave me the name of an attorney in Kentucky, Ted Amshoff, a member of a national law firm specializing in abortion malpractice cases. When I spoke to his paralegal, Josephine, I knew I had finally found someone who cared more about Mary’s death than about the controversy of abortion. Two days later Mr. Amshoff came to our city, reviewed the hospital records and autopsy report, and recognized that Mary had died a senseless death.
Our suit was filed in September of 1991. The legal battle is still ongoing, which is the reason why I can’t publish our real names and many of the other details which would identify the defendants.
During the course of this suit, I feel the defense tactics have been shameless. Among other ploys, they have tried to discredit us as a family just trying to “cash in” on the situation. Of course I’ve come to understand that all of this is part of a strategy designed to discourage us.
Through Mr. Amshoff’s persistence we have uncovered several important facts. In depositions we learned that the M/SW never saw Mary’s sonogram or even discussed the results with her. The M/SW ordered the sonogram solely to determine which abortion method should be used.
Mary never saw the words on the sonogram report that would have changed everything: “No abnormalities detected.” Had she been told this, she never would have had the abortion. She would have been freed from the guilt and fear that her handicapped child would be unadoptable or an unbearable burden on her parents and son. This abortion counselor only wanted Mary to see one choice: abortion. They took advantage of a depressed 18 year old, leading her to make a major life and health decision based on incomplete and misleading statements. Never once did they mention the guilt and pain she would have endured even if she had survived her “safe and legal” abortion. So much for “freedom of choice.”
We also learned that the abortion unit at this teaching hospital allows residents to perform the abortions and after care. When Mary became ill, she was seen by a resident who was only two months out of medical school. Despite the many symptoms of infection which were present when he examined her, he decided to delay Mary’s treatment for one hour.
Mary didn’t last the hour. After 40 minutes she was in a coma and on full life support. She had a raging infection that was rapidly overwhelming her body. By the time Mary was taken to the ICU, it was too late to save her. Only then, when it was too late, was she finally seen by a board certified doctor.
When Mary died, there was not one investigation, conference, or group discussion conducted by the hospital. The abortion unit is still open and operating as if nothing had happened. The death of an eighteen year old mother was not reason enough to overhaul their abortion unit. There attitude has simply been to keep the business running.
Nor has it escaped our notice that there has been absolutely no concern expressed over Mary’s death by the “pro-choice” women’s groups. Why aren’t they demanding justice for this dead teenage sister? Aren’t they concerned that she was lied to about the condition of her baby, that she was denied any true choice? Aren’t they concerned that she was ignored while an infection took her life? This “sisterhood” is a lie. Not one member of any pro-choice or women’s group, like A.C.L.U. or N.O.W., has come forward to express even token sympathy, much less outrage over Mary’s death. They would prefer that she just remain a statistic.
But my daughter is not a statistic. She is a person who deserves respect. I believe that she is now a person living in heaven with her son, Christopher, who also died during that abortion. And she is praying for us, and especially for Justin, that in finding justice we will also find healing.
We too pray for justice and healing for all the other families, like ours, who have been traumatized by “safe and legal” abortion. For their sake, and the sake of those to come, we cannot be silent.
All names in this account are fictional. After this issue suit is settled, “Mrs. Taylor” wants to network with other families whose daughters have been killed or seriously injured by abortion for the purpose of mutual support and the advancement of social reform. Other families who wish to contact her for this purpose can write to her c/o Ted Amshoff, Swendsen, Amshoff, aroney, 1385 S. 4th St., Louisville, KY 40208, (502) 634-2554. Mrs. Taylor was assisted in finding legal representation by Legal Action for Women, (800) 962-2319.
Originally published in The Post-Abortion Review 2(2) Spring/Summer 1994. Copyright 1994 Elliot Institute