She Had a Heartbeat Too
This image was originally created for the Without Us Strike February 2022 fundraiser. For International Women's Day, I'd like to share it again, with a little more context.
These names were not chosen at random. For various reasons, all of these women had their lives impacted by pregnancy. During that time, governments, healthcare providers, or family members decided that the heartbeat of the foetus mattered more than the heartbeat of the mother. The results were often tragic.
Ensuring access to safe abortion helps to ensure the continued life of women.
Izabela was 30 when she died of septic shock in Poland in Sept 2021. Restrictive abortion laws meant she was unable to get an abortion for her unviable, 22-week foetus.
Sheila Hodgers was 28 when she died of cancer after giving birth to her third child in Ireland in 1983. Because of risk to the foetus, she was unable to receive treatment and was denied a caesarian section. Her daughter was born premature and died immediately.
Elizabeth was 34 in 2018 when she died from septic shock after attempting to terminate her own pregnancy in Argentina, where abortion is illegal.
Mary’s husband refused to provide consent for her to take birth control in Connecticut in the 1950’s, despite doctors’ warnings that a second pregnancy could be fatal. She died shortly after the birth of her daughter.
Rosie Jimenez was 27 in 1977 when she died after receiving an abortion from an unlicensed midwife in Texas. Rosie was unable to afford the cost of the procedure at a hospital, and Medicaid was legally restricted from covering the cost.
Yvonne Jurewicz was 20 when she died in Toronto in 1990 after a self-induced abortion. At that time, the Canadian government was considering Bill C-43, which sought to criminalize abortion. Bill C-43 was defeated in 1991.
Savita Halappanavar was 31 when she died of septicemia in Ireland in 2012. Due to Irish law at the time, Savita was denied an abortion during a miscarriage - even though doctors acknowledged that the foetus would not survive.
Patricia accessed a safe, medically assisted abortion in Phokeng, South Africa. She survived to care for her eldest child.
Lucía was 11 in 2019 when she was raped and became pregnant in Argentina. Despite the country’s laws permitting abortion in cases of rape and danger to the mother, Lucía was denied the procedure. Instead, doctors performed a caesarian section on the 23-week pregnant 11-year-old. The foetus did not survive.
Lillian Robinson Johnson died in Alabama in 1922 from complications related to an abortion, which was illegal in the US at the time.
Valentina Milluzzo was 32 when she died in an Italian hospital in October 2016 after experiencing a miscarriage with her 19-week-old twin foetuses. Her family claims the doctor treating Valentina refused to perform the abortion that would have saved her life.
Christina Quintanilla was 18 when, in 2004, she was convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 years in jail after the miscarriage of her 7-month-old foetus. El Salvador, where this story took place, considers abortion a crime even when the mother’s life is at risk. In 2009 Christina’s sentence was ruled excessive by the El Salvadorian supreme court, and she was released.
Joyce Hubbard was 25 in Missouri in 1936 when she died from an infection caused by an unsafe abortion. Her family, which already consisted of 4 children, was experiencing homelessness following the 1929 stock market crash. Abortion was illegal in the U.S. at the time.
Gerri Santoro was 28 when she died in Connecticut following a self-induced abortion in 1964. At the time, abortion was illegal in the US.
Agnieszka Torbus was 37 when she died in Poland in January 2022 after one of her twins died in utero and doctors refused to perform an abortion. Eventually, the second foetus’s heartbeat stopped as well, and only then were doctors willing to carry out the procedure. In 2021, Poland implemented one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.
Kawana Michele Ashley was 27 and living in Florida when, in 1994, she shot herself in the stomach because she couldn’t afford an abortion. Doctors performed a caesarian section to remove the 6-month old foetus who survived the event, but the baby died two weeks later when her undeveloped kidneys failed. Authorities determined that the foetus, having survived for 2 weeks outside the womb, was a person, and that the death resulted from an illegal act - Kawana’s attempted abortion. She was charged with third degree murder.
Beatriz was 22 and suffering from lupus and kidney failure when she was denied an abortion in El Salvador in 2013. Due to the country’s strict abortion laws, the only option was to perform a caesarian section for the 27-week old foetus, who was developing without a brain. The baby girl died five hours after delivery. Beatriz survived.
Jane Doe is every woman who struggled to access abortion whose story has never been told.