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Erika Peterson, 1961 Legal Abortion Death
Her condition was improving, then her abortion took her life
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Erika Peterson, age 28, died July 23, 1961 during a legal abortion at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California.

At this time, abortion was only legal in California if it was done to save the life of the mother.

Erika had entered the hospital on July 11, 1961 during the first trimester of pregnancy, because of problems breathing. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and placed in a tank respirator.

Her physicians made the decision to abort her child as soon as she was well enough to undergo the abortion.

On July 21st, ErikaÁøs condition was improved, and her husband signed the consent form for the abortion, which was scheduled to take place two days later.

Erika went into cardiac arrest during the abortion and was unable to be resuscitated. The abortion that was intended to save her life ended her life instead.

After autopsy, it was believed that Erika's original illness was caused by a hereditary disease that was exacerbated by the medications she was taking for her schizophrenia.

Erika's was not the only tragic death caused by doctors who recommended (or excused) abortion as a life-saving or health-preserving option for the mother:

Illegal by Doctors Illegal by Paramedical Illegal by Amateurs Self Induced

In the 1960s, we see the 20th Century downward trend in abortion mortality resumed -- until a brief upturn starting in 1968, when some states first started loosening their abortion laws. For more, see Abortion Deaths in the 1960's.

For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

Sources:California Certificate of Death, File # 61-081581; San Diego County CoronerÁøs Report # 37646

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