Legal Abortion Death: Carolina Gutierrez, 20 (Infection From Uterine Perforation Leading to Amputated Legs)

Carolina Gutierrez died six weeks after her safe and legal abortion. An infection set in from her perforated (cut) uterus. Her gangrenous legs were amputated during that time in an effort to save her life, but she did not survive.

Carolina, who had come to the United States as a refugee from Nicaragua at age 13, was 20 years old when she went to Maber Medical Center in Miami for an abortion on December 19, 1995.

Carolina’s husband did not want her to have the abortion, so Carolina got a friend to drive her back and forth to the clinic.

The evening after her abortion, Carolina had pain in her chest and abdomen. She called the clinic for help, but whoever answered the phone hung up on her.

Over the next two days, Carolina left messages on the clinic answering machine, but nobody returned her calls.

On December 21st, she could hardly breathe, so her family called 911. She arrived at the emergency room already in septic shock.

Carolina underwent an emergency hysterectomy at the hospital to try to halt the spread of infection from her perforated uterus.

Carolina was put into the intensive care unit, where she battled for her life against the raging sepsis. She was on a respirator, with her fingers and feet going black with gangrene.

Relatives cared for her children, a five-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy, while Carolina’s husband spent as much time as he could by her side. “I can’t sleep. I try to take my mind off it, but it’s impossible,” he told the Miami Herald.

Carolina’s 21st birthday came and went as she lay in the ICU. Doctors fought to help the young woman to gain enough strength to undergo amputation of her gangrenous limbs. But despite the hysterectomy, the amputations, and all their other efforts, Carolina died on February 5, 1996.

According to the Miami Herald, abortion clinic regulations were in affect in 1980, but were later thrown out as being “too restrictive.” A less strict code was passed in 1988. According to the Miami Herald, at the time of Gutierrez’s death “Annual inspections for Florida’s 65 licensed clinics [consisted] of six questions — all answered from paperwork, not examination of medical equipment or operating practices or staff training.” Pro-choice groups such as Planned Parenthood typically oppose these regulations and are instrumental in their defeat and repeal

While investigating the clinic, officials noted that although Carolina could not read English, her only consent form was in English — and the line for her signature was blank. She had paid $225 in cash for the abortion that took her legs and her life.

Sources: Miami Herald: “Abortion patient critically ill; state investigates clinic,” January 26, 1996; “A tragic consequence,” February 9, 1996; “Regulate abortion clinics better,” March 1, 1996, “Unsafe but legal,” Newark Star-Ledger, March 14, 1996

Credit: Christina Dunigan

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