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LeRoy Carhart poses for a portrait at last month's Sundance Film Festival.
Associated Press/Photo by Victoria Will (Invision)
LeRoy Carhart poses for a portrait at last month's Sundance Film Festival.

Cause of death

Abortion | Maryland officials say a 29-year-old woman died of massive bleeding following a late-term abortion performed by LeRoy Carhart

The Maryland medical examiners’ office has released the cause of death for 29-year-old Jennifer McKenna Morbelli, who died Feb. 7 after undergoing a late-term abortion in Maryland. The official findings, based on autopsy results, are consistent with earlier, anonymous reports that the woman died of massive internal bleeding.

The examiners’ office found Morbelli suffered from an “amniotic fluid embolism following a medical termination of pregnancy”—a life-threatening condition where amniotic fluid or other material from the baby, such as cells or hair, enters the mother’s bloodstream and causes a severe allergic reaction.

That, in turn, led to a “disseminated intravascular coagulation,” where blood stops clotting properly and causes widespread bleeding, often internal.

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Morbelli’s death certificate listed her death as “natural,” although that doesn’t exclude the possibility of medical malpractice, according to Operation Rescue, which first reported the woman’s death.

Eyewitnesses say Morbelli, who was 33 weeks pregnant, entered the Germantown Reproductive Health Center in Germantown, Md., each day from the Sunday to Wednesday before her death on Thursday morning. They say LeRoy Carhart, a former associate of deceased abortionist George Tiller, performed Morbelli’s abortion. Carhart was also featured in the pro-abortion documentary After Tiller, which premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival.

It’s unclear at this point whether Carhart physically botched the abortion procedure—such as by perforating the woman’s uterus. A spokesman for the Maryland medical examiners’ office, Bruce Goldfarb, told me, “It’s not accurate to say the amniotic fluid perforated the uterus.” Amniotic fluid embolisms are rare, and their cause is poorly understood among doctors.

Goldfarb added that “fetal abnormalities” were responsible for the amniotic fluid embolism. A full autopsy report won’t be available for another month or two, he said. Dr. Carol Allan, who performed the autopsy, declined to comment on the case.

Citing anonymous sources and an obituary posted online, pro-life blogger Jill Stanek wrote earlier this month that Morbelli had planned to keep her unborn baby. She had named the baby girl Madison Leigh and registered her at AmazingRegistry.com. But late in January she learned the baby had fetal anomalies. The news prompted her to travel from her home in New Rochelle, N.Y., to Carhart’s abortion center in Maryland.

Morbelli was a kindergarten schoolteacher and left behind her husband, T.J., whom she married in 2009. On Feb. 13, Ash Wednesday, her family held a Roman Catholic funeral service commemorating both Jennifer and Madison Morbelli. Martin Biglin, the pastor presiding over the service, told mourners Ash Wednesday was “a reminder that we are frail and weak at times, that at times we need the Savior Jesus not only for the forgiveness of our sins but to help us, to strengthen us to continue to live on in this life.”

Under state law, abortion in Maryland is illegal once the unborn baby is viable—that is, once it can survive outside the womb with medical assistance. But the state makes an exception when the baby has an abnormality, or when the mother’s life or health (including mental health) is at risk. Abortionists like Carhart regularly exploit that flexible loophole in order to keep up their late-term abortion business in the state.

Following the abortion procedure, a four-day process beginning with a lethal drug injection and ending with the delivery of the dead baby, Morbelli died at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, Md.

Operation Rescue has filed a complaint with the Maryland Board of Physicians calling for Carhart’s medical license to be suspended. The group says he was negligent for failing to diagnose Morbelli’s condition and for leaving the state only hours before she was admitted to the hospital. Morbelli’s family and hospital staff tried to contact Carhart while the woman suffered but were unable to, according to the group. Police in Maryland are investigating the case and await the autopsy report.

Carhart was also associated with a 2005 death in Wichita, Kan. A 19-year-old girl with Down syndrome, Christin Gilbert, died after undergoing a third-trimester abortion performed by Carhart at a Kansas facility where he worked at the time.

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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