The AtlanticThe Atlantic

The Dishonesty of the Abortion Debate

By Caitlin Flanagan

12 Nov 2019 · 13 min read

In 1956, two American physicians, J. A. Presley and W. E. Brown, colleagues at the University of Arkansas School of Medicine, decided that four recent admissions to their hospital were significant enough to warrant a published report. “Lysol-Induced Criminal Abortion” appeared in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. It describes four women who were admitted to the hospital in extreme distress, all of them having had “criminal abortions” with what the doctors believed to be an unusual agent: Lysol. The powerful cleaner had been pumped into their wombs. Three of them survived, and one of them died.

The first woman arrived at the hospital in a “hysterical state.” She was 32 years old, her husband was with her, and she was in the midst of an obvious medical crisis: Her temperature was 104 degrees, and her urine was “port-wine” colored and contained extremely high levels of albumin, indicating that her kidneys were shutting down. Her husband eventually confessed that they had gone to a doctor for an abortion two days earlier. Four hours after admission, the woman became agitated; she was put in restraints and sedated. Two hours after that, she began to breathe in the deep and ragged manner of the dying. An autopsy revealed massive necrosis of her kidneys and liver.

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