One late evening in the 1990s when I (Dr. Lyerly) was a resident, our gynecology team was called to evaluate a young woman in shock. According to her husband, she had not been herself for a couple of days, then she fainted on the kitchen floor, her pants soaked in blood. That was all he knew.
As the team spent time with the patient, we learned more. “Jennifer”—a mother of modest means—had unintentionally become pregnant. Given her family’s and community’s stance on abortion, she kept her pregnancy to herself. Deciding she could not care for another baby, she finally found someone outside the medical establishment who would perform an abortion cheaply and, he promised, discreetly. Discretion was perhaps the least of what was violated: Jennifer’s uterus was perforated several times during the procedure. Despite our team’s efforts, including emergent hysterectomy, she died after several weeks of intensive care.