Since Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in every state in the U.S., over 55 million babies have been killed in the wombs of their mothers (and some outside). The deaths of women from legal abortion get far less attention. Yet hundreds of women have been killed in botched legal abortions.
One of these women was 18-year-old Marla Cardamone (pictured right), who died from a botched abortion 27 years ago this month. Christina Dunigan has written about the events that took place in August of 1989.
Cardamone, already the mother of a toddler, was pregnant and was thinking of making an adoption plan for her baby. Unfortunately, her social worker urged her to have an abortion. The reason was that Cardamone had been taking medication for depression. The medications Tegretol (a mood stabilizer) and Elavil (an antidepressant) had a small chance of causing fetal deformities. According to Dunigan’s research, however, the chances of Cardamone’s baby being damaged was only 8%.
Despite the fact that the odds were in her child’s favor, Cardamone listened to the social worker who was urging her to abort. Already, as a woman suffering from a mental illness, she was at high risk of post-abortion trauma and regret. According to a World Health Organization report:
Studies concerned with women who have had legal abortions in hospitals, mainly for psychiatric reasons, show that serious mental disorders arise more often in women with previous emotional problems. These, the very women for whom legal abortion is considered to be justified on psychiatric grounds, are the ones that have the highest risk for postabortion psychiatric disorders.Cardamone went for a sonogram, but never learned the medical results. More on that later.
The social worker convinced Cardamone that the risk of having a severely disabled baby was too high, and she agreed to an abortion. She may have believed that no one would adopt a disabled child. This is a common misconception. There are often families willing to adopt even children with potentially fatal conditions. For instance, Dana Weinstein, who told the story of her abortion in Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, was given the option of placing her son for adoption, even though he suffered from a fatal brain defect. Weinstein says:
They couldn’t give me any indication of how long the child would survive after it was born, but they did say that I would need a resuscitation order in place prior to delivering her, and she would need significant medical intervention to exist. They gave me the option of adoption, there are apparently families and places that will adopt children like this, that will die.Sadly, instead of placing her baby for adoption, Weinstein aborted at 32 weeks.
So even if Cardamone’s baby had been severely disabled, adoption was still a possibility. But Cardamone chose abortion. She was admitted to Magee Women’s Hospital for the abortion and abortionist Michael W. Weinberger injected urea into her uterus to kill her baby.
She would never leave the hospital.
A botched laminaria insertion and possible botched injection led to septicemia, and massive cortical necrosis of the kidneys and uterine wall. The complications began during the night. She became ill with nausea, vomiting, urinary incontinence and began bleeding from the mouth. Disorientation and seizures followed. Her temperature skyrocketed. Although doctors struggled to save her, she died. Her family was not notified that anything was wrong until after her death.
Cardamone’s mother describes coming to the hospital to see her daughter’s body:
When I entered the room, I could hardly believe what I saw. There was my beautiful daughter so horribly disfigured that she was almost unrecognizable. A tube was still 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 discolored a deep purple. The left side of her face looked like she had suffered a stroke. All I wanted was to hold her. I managed to get an arm around her and kissed her good-bye.A lawsuit was filed, and another tragic fact came to light. The ultrasound Cardamone had before the abortion showed that the baby was normal, but she never knew. As her mother said: “My daughter was pressured to have an abortion, and there had been no reason for it, no reason at all.”
Pro-choice groups have never reached out to Cardamone’s family or publicly mentioned her death. Cardamone’s mother says.
I’ve often wondered why pro-choice women’s groups have never expressed any sympathy or concern over Marla’s death. Why aren’t they demanding justice? Why aren’t they concerned that Marla was lied to about the condition of her baby and wasn’t shown the sonogram results? Why aren’t they concerned that proper treatment was delayed because Marla was misdiagnosed by a resident who was only two months out of medical school? Why are they so quiet? I believe it’s because pro-choice groups don’t want women to read or hear about abortion injuries and deaths. Bad publicity hurts their cause. That’s why they prefer that Marla and her baby remain hidden statistics.Marla Cardamone’s death was a tragedy that never should have happened. How many times have pro-choice leaders told the public that abortion must be legal in so that it can be safe? Cardamone is just one of hundreds of mothers who have died from legal abortions.
A legal abortion is not always a safe abortion. But despite these deaths, the pro-choice movement has mobilized against common sense clinic regulations that would make abortion safer and have been successful in getting legislation protecting women struck down in the courts.