Legal Abortion Death: Holly Patterson

Holly Patterson, age 18, died September 17, 2003, from sepsis caused by a fetus incompletely expelled in a safe and legal medical abortion. Holly got the drugs for the fatal abortion at a Planned Parenthood in Hayward, California, on September 10.

Rather than follow the recommended protocols for chemical abortions, Planned Parenthood followed the more popular American approach of giving Holly the mifepristone at the facility, then giving her misoprostol to self-administer at home.

Holly had experienced severe cramping and pain, and went to the emergency room. She was examined, given pain medication, and discharged.

At her boyfriends insistence, she returned to the emergency room on September 17, but by then her condition had deteriorated and efforts to save her were futile.

Monty Patterson, Holly’s father, told the San Francisco Chronicle, “The medical community treats this as a simple pill you take, as if you’re getting rid of a headache. The procedure, the follow-ups, it’s all too lackadaisical. The girl gets a pill. Then she’s sent home to do the rest on her own. There are just too many things that can go wrong.”

For an extensive, in-depth look at Holly’s death and the surrounding political firestorm, see: The Making of a Martyr, Holly Patterson’s death.

Three other women were identified as having died of infection deaths after RU-486 deaths in the Los Angeles area: Chanelle Bryant, Oriane Shevin, and Vivian Tran. Chanelle got her abortion drugs at a Planned Parenthood, and Oriane and Vivian got theirs from National Abortion Federation members.

From an open letter by Holly Patterson’s parents:

“Holly was a strong, healthy, intelligent and ambitious teenager who fell victim of a process that wholly failed her, beginning with the 24-year-old man who had unprotected sex with her, impregnated her, and then proceeded to facilitate the secrecy that surrounded her pregnancy and abortion. Under this conspiracy of silence, Holly suffered and depended on the safety of the FDA approved pill administered by Planned Parenthood and emergency room treatment by Valley Care Medical Center where she received pain killers for severe cramping and was sent home. On Saturday and Sunday, Holly cried and complained of severe cramping and constipation, and even allowed us to comfort her but could not tell us what she was really going through. On September 17, 2003, she succumbed to septic shock and died while many members of our family waited anxiously, yet expectantly in the Critical Care Unit for her to recover until we were forced behind the curtain when it was clear that she was dying.

And in those last moments of her life feeling utter disbelief and desperation we formed a circle just beyond the curtain and prayed aloud, cried and screamed, “We love you, Holly” hoping beyond hope that those words would ring out and save her life. And the other members of our family who drove and flew from all over the country to be by her side did not make it in time to say, “I love you” just one last time. Holly was not alone, unloved, unprotected or unsupported; she had a large family who willingly supported her throughout her short life and tragic death.

In the weeks since we buried Holly’s body we are now able to recall and share the memories of our daughter’s brilliant blue eyes, engaging smile, laughter, unwavering determination and sheer gentle beauty that invoked our natural instinct to protect and love her, but we will never be able to forget those last moments of her life when she was too weak to talk and could barely squeeze our hands in acknowledgment of our words of encouragement. “We love you, Holly”, “Just hang in there, the whole family is coming,” “You fight this Holly, you can do it.”

It can be found in its entirety here.

Other Sources # Pregnant teen’s death under investigation
Investigation Into RU 486 Abortion Death Begins
California woman’s death re-ignites abortion pill debate
No Magic Pill
# “Woman dies after taking abortion pill”
# “California Teen Dies After Complications From Abortion Pill” ABC NEWS
Abortion Pill Culprit In Death? CBS NEWS

Credit: Christina Dunigan

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5 Responses to Legal Abortion Death: Holly Patterson

  1. Wren says:

    In regards to the comment made by Bethany, that is a cruel, bitter, and hateful thing to say. If you are christian, even if you aren’t, shame on you. This is what’s wrong with our world. The vitriol people spew, the hate, it’s embarrassing that this is what we have become. A young woman died because she didn’t want to bring a child into this world that she wasn’t ready for. Is it fair to have a baby that you can’t support and give it a quality of life it deserves. I have severe health problems, especially in my reproductive organs and my birth control failed me regardless of taking it exactly as I was supposed to and now I have to abort the pregnancy. If I have this child, the chance of death in me and the baby are too high. If I died because I selfishly wanted another baby, I’d leave my son without his mother and husband without his wife.

    I recommend before saying such cruel things, look at the whole picture. Put yourself in someone else’s shoe’s. Your opinion is yours, that doesn’t make it okay. Let alone right. Everyone is different and there is always more to the story and their reasons. Her death was not karma, it is just another tragic event that brings awareness to the real issue at hand. The lack of care provided in the medical community. The corners that are cut, doctors ignoring what their patients are saying and think writing a prescription is enough instead of being thorough. We live in a world where being thorough and not cutting corners is becoming more rare each day. Where people are cruel and bitter, that say or do things without being fully informed or thinking it through. A young woman died, her family has to live on without her, if the woman on woman shaming was not so constant, maybe if her fear and shame wasn’t a part of her decision the story might have been different because she would not have felt the need to keep silent. There is many sides, many reasons, but being brave enough to get an abortion so that another child isn’t brought up by another teen that wasn’t ready and becoming another welfare statistic if family support is limited. Her death was not her karma, karma is what we experience, you can’t experience karma if you are dead. Anyway, that’s it. I could keep going, I feel I’ve expressed my personal opinion and I hope it helps anyone else that is dealing with all the stuff that comes with having to get an abortion.



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  5. Bethany says:

    In my opinion, she deserved to die. Her death was a visit from karma. She should have just sucked it up and stayed pregnant

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