Dawn Ravenell was only 13 years old when she found herself living her worst nightmare. Scared and pregnant, she decided she could not tell her parents, both Pentecostal ministers, about her baby. Dawn was so terrified of their possible reaction to this news that she decided to proceed with an abortion at Eastern Women’s Center in New York City on Jan. 24, 1985, without telling anyone.

The procedure was disastrous from the start. Within the first five minutes of the abortion, Dawn began to vomit and choke. Allen Klein, the doctor who commuted from Philadelphia to perform the abortion, inserted a breathing tube into her windpipe and moved her into a recovery room. Left unattended, Dawn once again began to choke and suffered a massive heart attack. By the time a staff member checked on her condition, Dawn had already slipped into a fatal coma. She died at a nearby hospital three weeks later, without regaining consciousness.

Dawn’s parents were notified about their daughter’s pregnancy and tragic abortion when it was too late. She was already comatose. Trying to understand why her daughter did not choose to confide in her, Ruth Ravenell said, “I think that she felt that for me to see her as less than perfect would have been too much.” She never got to make peace with her little girl.

Ruth and her husband successfully sued Klein and Eastern Women’s Center over Dawn’s death. In December 1990, a Manhattan jury awarded them $1.2 million in compensatory damages. Since then, the Ravenells have become advocates for parental notification and consent laws, testifying before various state legislatures. Klein went on to work at a Pensacola, Fla., abortion clinic, where he was hailed as a hero.

Source: New York Post, Dec. 11, 1990
Associated Press, Dec. 11, 1990

Reprinted from The American Feminist, Summer 1999

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