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Why This? Why Now?
Part Two: New Invention Put Into Practice

Prior to Roe, the only state that had the kind of carte-blanc abortion (on demand and with minimal state oversight) was New York, which had "liberalized" their abortion law in 1970 to allow abortion up to 24 weeks. The experiment was a disaster. Criminal abortionists from all over the country carpetbagged to New York to be free of the threat of prison. They took appalling risks with women's lives -- performing risky procedures in their offices and freestanding clinics, and sending women home to languish and die. An example of the type of practitioner attracted to the new abortion business is Jesse Ketchum, who had kept his nose fairly clean as a criminal abortionist, only to kill two women in a four month period doing legal abortions.

The primary methods of later abortions were hysterotomy (which is like a c-section, only with the baby deliberately delivered dead) and instillation (which involves injecting chemicals into the uterus to kill the fetus and trigger pre-term labor). Both of these methods were terribly risky to the mother. Hysterotomy fell out of favor after abortionist Kenneth Edelin was charged with murdering a baby born during a hysterotomy.

Instillation abortions were invented in Rumania in 1939. It involved injecting substances into the amniotic fluid to kill the fetus and/or initiate labor. Various substances were tried, and abortionists settled on their two favorites: hypertonic saline and prostaglandin. Saline killed the baby by causing it to hemorrhage internally. Prostaglandin killed the baby by causing such intense uterine contractions that the baby was (usually) fatally injured during the premature birthing process. But prostaglandin had drawbacks most American abortionists weren't ready to tolerate. Prostaglandin made the women vomit, caused such severe contractions that the woman's cervix sometimes tore off, and failed to kill the fetus consistently. The favored technique for later abortions became saline.

Not that saline didn't have problems of its own. Saline had been widely adopted in Japan after WWII, with at least 60 women dying and over 70 papers published in Japanese medical journals addressing the risks to women's life and health. When abortion started becoming common in the West, two Japanese abortionists, Takashi Wagatsuma and Yukio Manabe, published a number of articles and letters in Western medical journals, virtually begging abortionists to abandon the practice. Aside from the risk of outright killing the mother -- which saline was all too prone to do -- the method also caused electrolyte imbalances in the maternal bloodstream. When the salt-rich blood reached the woman's brain, it would leach fluid from her brain cells. The body would respond by pumping extra fluid into the brain cells, just as the kidneys were flushing the extra saline out of the blood. This would cause swelling of the brain. This could cause brain damage even in women who survived their abortions. But even more distressing to the abortionists was the propensity of saline to produce a live but injured baby. In 1981, the Philadelphia Enquirer exposed the problem of live births in their expose, "The Dreaded Complication."

NEXT: Addressing the New Problem

The Why This? Why Now? Series:

Part 1 - Inventors on the Bench
Part 2 - New Invention Put Into Practice
Part 3 - Addressing The Problem
Part 4 - New Opportunities
Part 5 - NAF and NRC Collide
Part 6 - Now What?

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RealChoice Blog

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