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Death of Tonya Reaves after an abortion is a reminder that abortions carry risks


Tanya Reaves

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Updated: August 25, 2012 6:16AM

The death of Tonya Reaves after an abortion is a shocking reminder that abortions carry a real risk.

The 24-year-old black woman died Friday night after having an abortion at Planned Parenthood’s clinic at 18 S. Michigan Ave.

Now Reaves’ family is demanding answers and Planned Parenthood ­— already under fire on other fronts — is defending its record.

On Monday, Carole Brite, the CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Illinois, issued the organization’s condolences:

“While legal abortion services in the United States have a very high safety record, a tragedy such as this is devastating to loved ones and we offer our deepest sympathies. Planned Parenthood of Illinois cares deeply about the health and safety of each and every patient,” she said.

Earlier, the dead woman’s twin sister told WBBM-AM her twin was “just fine one day and then the next day she was gone.”

“We are just trying to figure out what happened,” said Toni Reaves.

By Monday afternoon, calls to Reaves’ survivors were being referred to a personal-injury lawyer.

“We are just finding out what happened to her medically, just gathering the facts around this unfortunate tragedy,” Corey Meyers told me.

Reaves underwent a cervical dilation and evacuation procedure, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. She died of a hemorrhage and her pregnancy was a contributing factor. The young woman’s death was ruled an accident by the examiner’s office.

Given the number of abortions performed each year, it is a miracle that such complications don’t pop up more often.

About 1.2 million abortions were performed in 2008, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights group. Each year, 2 percent of women aged 15-44 have an abortion, and half had at least one previous abortion.

The abortion-rights group reports that less than 0.3 percent of abortion patients experience serious complications.

For most women, an abortion is a heart-wrenching and extremely private procedure.

When something goes wrong, it is devastating to family and friends.

I still remember the pain of losing two friends during my teenage years. Both teens suffered complications after legal abortions.

Both young women did not tell anyone they were having an abortion. After the procedure, they came home and went to bed and bled to death.

By the time it was apparent that something had gone horribly wrong, it was too late to save the women’s lives.

Reaves was engaged to be married and had a 1-year-old son, according to a report that aired on WBBM-AM.

Unfortunately, her death is likely to be used by pro-life activists to re-ignite an ugly abortion debate in the African-American community.

Last year, anti-abortionists came to Chicago and erected controversial billboards about the staggering black abortion rate.

Data from 2007 released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that although blacks make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for 36.5 percent of abortions in the U.S.

One billboard had a picture of President Barack Obama’s face next to the words “Every 21 minutes our next possible leader is aborted.”

Another billboard showed an African-American girl next to the words “The most dangerous place for an African-American is the womb.”

During his failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Herman Cain used the issue to bash Planned Parenthood as “planned genocide.”

“Seventy-five percent of those facilities were built in the black community,” Cain argued.

And Dr. Alveda King, the niece of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has accused the group’s founder, Margaret Sanger, of being racially motivated in her quest to reduce unwanted pregnancies among poor black women.

But for most women — black, white, Hispanic and other ­— abortion is still viewed as a desperate measure.

Reaves’ death reminds us that despite the fact that abortions are fairly common (“nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended and about four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion,” according to Guttmacher), it is not a procedure to be taken lightly.

Hopefully, abortion foes won’t make matters worse for this grieving family by trying to make Reaves a poster child in this never-ending political battle.

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