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Barbaralee Davis

Eighteen-year-old newlywed Barbaralee Davis called a local women's group for a safe and legal abortion referral. They sent her to a member of the newly founded National Abortion Federation, Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois.

National Abortion Federation Promises
Screen capture of assurance of safe, quality care on National
Abortion Federation web site. It reads:
"What is a NAF Clinic? NAF is the professional association of
abortion providers in North America. .... In order to become a member,
a clinic must complete a rigorous application process. Member clinics
have agreed to comply with our standards for quality and care....
NAF periodically conducts site visits to confirm that our clinics
are in compliance with our guidelines.

After the abortion, performed June 14, 1977 by Hope Medical Director Hector Zavalos, Barbaralee attended a post-abortion counseling session, during which she was pale and reporting lower abdominal cramping. She was kept for observation an additional two hours, but the CDC noted that Barbaralee's vital signs were last noted 45 minutes after the abortion. Barbaralee then reportedly told staff that she felt better and asked to be sent home, so they discharged her even though she was still showing, according to the CDC's investigators, symptoms "suggestive of internal hemorrhage." Barbaralee was not given a discharge examination before being sent home. Her sister helped her, pale and bleeding, to the car. Barbaralee slept in the back seat the whole way home, approximately a two-hour trip. Her sister helped her to bed.

When Barbaralee's sister checked on her several hours later, she was unresponsive. She was rushed to the Pickneyville hospital, where an emergency hysterectomy was attempted to save her life. Barbaralee died during the surgery, leaving one child motherless.

The autopsy found the face and spinal column of Barbaralee's baby embedded in a hole in her uterus. There were two quarts of blood in her abdomen. Barbaralee had bled to death.

The medical examiner noted: "A very large retroperitoneal hematoma is present with dissection of blood along right ureter. A 4 mc. tear is noted on the right anterior surface of the lower third of the uterus and a large amount of blood, estimated at 2000 ccs. is present in the pelvis. Two fetal parts, the face and thoracic spinal column, are embedded in a 700 cc. fresh hematoma inside the uterus."

Illinois law placed a 12-week limit on outpatient abortions. Zavalos told CDC investigators that he thought Barbaralee had been only 11 weeks pregnant even though her last normal menstrual period had been five months earlier. The clinic records examined by CDC staff said that the gross examination of the fetal tissue removed during the abortion was consistent with an 11-week pregnancy. However, the medical examiner drew a different conclusion, based on the tissue that had been left embedded in Barbaralee's uterus:

In an attempt to estimate the length of gestation in the absence of the whole fetus, the two parts, namely the face, less the crown, and the thoracic vertebral column without the rump, are laid end to end. Together they measure 9 cm. A conservative estimate of the crown to rump length would be 10 to 11 cm. This will place the gestational age at 16 to 16 1/2 weeks.

Hope Clinic for Women was not only permitted to remain in operation, it was allowed to remain a member in good standing of the National Abortion Federation.


Sources: The Wanderer, 10/13/77; CDC Abortion Surveillance Summary 1977; "$1 million abortion suit in teen's death," Chicago Tribune, August 31, 1977, p. 1:6; Perry County (IL) Coroner's Report 6/20/77; "Abortion Clinic Sued In Death," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 15, 1979, 3A; CDC Abortion Surveillance Annual Summary 1977, p. 10-12)

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