"SAFE & LEGAL" -- IN NEW YORK
by James A. Miller
Dawn Ravenell was a bright, musically talented child who loved gospel music
and sang with her school glee club and her family's gospel singing group,
of which she was the, lead singer. Dawn also sang at the Faith Tabernacle
Church in Queens Village, New York City, where her father Preston was the
pastor, and her mother Ruth a minister.
The Ravenells were a loving, close-knit family of eight, with two adopted
children in addition to Dawn and her three biological siblings. Mrs.
Ravenell fondly remembers Dawn, her "perfect child," who never gave her
parents any grief. Dawn was a great help in keeping the busy home
functioning well: caring for the younger children, helping with the
housework, often "waxing all the furniture and cleaning out the
As an eighth grade, honor roll student at Junior High School 192 in Hollis,
Queens, N.Y, Dawn was truly a delightful and unique child. Indeed, the only
problem Mrs. Ravenell could recall was Dawn's pairing off with a steady
boyfriend at age 13. Mrs. Ravenell worried about that, and told Dawn that
Mother was "kind of old-fashioned and didn't have a boyfriend until she was
16 years old."
Dawn laughed, "Mommy, that was a long time ago! Nobody does that anymore."
So the mother left it at that, and Dawn had a steady 15 year-old boyfriend.
School Counselor Refers for Abortion
Unfortunately, Dawn soon became pregnant. Too embarrassed to tell her
parents, Dawn confided in a school guidance counselor, who referred her to
a Manhattan abortion clinic. Under New York law, as in most states, minors
may not have their ears pierced or a stitch inserted without prior parental
consent, but they may obtain abortions without the consent or even
notification of the parents. The school "counselor" could not give Dawn an
aspirin tablet without first obtaining written parental permission; yet the
abortion arrangements were made, quite legally, without parental consent or
New York City's Largest Abortion Mill
And so, on the 23rd of January, 1985, 13 year-old Dawn Ravenell, 21-weeks
pregnant and terrified, arrived at 14 East 60th Street, just a few feet off
of New York's prestigious 5th Avenue, for her secret abortion. One block
diagonally south was the famed Plaza Hotel; straight ahead across 5th
Avenue was the entrance to Central Park. Dawn was definitely in the "high
rent district," when she entered the office building housing Eastern
Women's Center, New York's largest volume abortion mill.
Because of Dawn's advanced pregnancy, lamanaria sticks were inserted into
her vagina to dilate the cervix for the abortion which was scheduled for
the next day. On January 24th, accompanied by her boyfriend, Dawn again
took the subway into Manhattan and came to Eastern Women's Center for her
Abortionist Takes Train From Philadelphia
The abortionist was Dr. Allen Klein, a Philadelphia osteopath who came to
New York by train one day a week to perform abortions at Eastern Women's
Center. Dr. Klein had no particular training in obstetrics or gynecology.
Eastern charged $600 for an abortion, and Klein received between $75 and
$100 of that, depending on the length of the pregnancy. Over the course of
a year, Klein earned an estimated $100,000 from Eastern for his once a
week stints. Back in Philadelphia Klein conducted his own lucrative
abortion business. which he began in 1971. Klein would later testify that
he had "performed more than 5,000 abortions" in his career, an apparent
gross undercount considering that at Eastern alone he was doing some one
thousand abortions yearly on a part-time basis.
"Just Another Piece of Meat"
Dawn's abortion started at 1:10 p.m. and was over at 1:25. Soon after, it
became obvious that something was horribly wrong: Dawn remained unconscious
and unresponsive. She was virtually brain dead and would never awaken.
Dr. Klein was assisted in performing the abortion by nurse anesthetist
Robert Augente, who later testified that he received between $18 and $25
per abortion. According to court testimony, neither Klein nor Augente had
ever met or even spoken to Dawn prior to putting her under general
anesthesia. Although Dawn had been "counseled" by a clinic "social worker"
the previous day, and had signed a consent form, the abortion mill hadn't
bothered to record her weight or age, much less explain the risks and
dangers of the abortion procedure. As attorney Thomas Principe, suing for
Dawn's estate, told the jurors, "This child was just another piece (of
meat) on the assembly line."
Dawn's fate was sealed when Augente began administrating the anesthetic
Brevitol to her. A highly dangerous drug, Brevitol's known side effects
include nausea and vomiting. There is no indication in the skimpy clinic
records that Dawn was told not to eat prior to her abortion, a routine
Cardiac Arrest and Coma
Although a 21-week, second-trimester abortion would normally last for 15 to
20 minutes--the baby must be crushed and pulled out part-by-body-part--
nurse Augente gave Dawn only 80 milligrams of Brevitol, a dose sufficient
to keep her unconscious for just 5 to 7 minutes. Dawn awoke during the
abortion and begin choking and vomiting; medical records indicate that she
"aspirated [vomited] gastric juices from her stomach into her lungs."
Klein and Augente gave Dawn more anesthesia and inserted " a 75-cent
plastic airway into her throat to help her breathe," and rushed through the
rest of the abortion. In his haste to complete the job, Klein left some
fetal tissue in Dawn's uterus, which was discovered later during the
Klein and Augente compounded their blunders by removing Dawn to a recovery
room, where she was left unattended with the plastic airway still in her
throat! When Dawn started to come out of the anesthesia she was again
choking and gagging on the airway in her throat and the vomited material in
her lungs. This time there was nobody in attendance, and so she choked on
her own vomit, literally drowning in it, and suffered cardiac arrest--a
massive heart attack.
When a nurse finally came by and saw what was happening, emergency services
were summoned, but it was too late. Dawn was rushed to nearby Roosevelt
Hospital, where she was placed on a respirator, and then transferred to St.
Luke's, the hospital's uptown division. A call from St. Luke's was the
first indication the Ravenells had of their daughter's pregnancy and
abortion. At St. Luke's they encountered Dawn's boyfriend, bawling
On February 11, 1985, after 18 days of being kept alive on a respirator,
Dawn, brain dead and totally unresponsive, was disconnected from her life-
The Malpractice Trial
Trial testimony showed that the abortionists fabricated their medical
records in an attempt to cover up their mistakes. Eight months after the
abortion, new, phony records were prepared which for the first time gave
Dawn's age and weight at the time of the procedure. Medical records were
also changed regarding the amount of anesthesia given to Dawn.
Eastern Women's Center, which had no medical malpractice insurance, was
severed from the case on the grounds that they simply hired the
abortionists and thus were not responsible for the malpractices they might
commit. Eastern, so the argument went, merely provided facilities for the
abortionists and the hired guns then operated entirely on their own. (This
writer has seen the same defense prevail in other abortion malpractice
Abortionist Klein and nurse Augente, on the other hand, argued that it was
not their responsibility to advise their patients of the risks of an
abortion--that was Eastern's job!
One of the more amazing bits of trial testimony occurred when lawyer
Principe, cross-examining Klein, asked whether Dawn's age bothered the
abortionist. Klein callously replied, "Oh, no. I've done 13-year olds
before. When they're 10, maybe I'll notice."
Record Malpractice Verdict
Although Principe had asked for a verdict in the amount of $1,000,000
against defendants Klein and Augente, the jury, calling Dawn's death "an
abomination," returned a verdict of $1,225,000! Dr. Klein was held liable
for 20% of the award and Augente for 80%. The jury award--greater than what
was sought, an almost unprecedented occurrence--was also the highest amount
ever won in New York State for a wrongful-death abortion case, eclipsing
the previous record by more than a half million dollars.
Unfortunately, the trial judge felt the amount was excessive and reduced
the award to just $400,000, which the bereaved parents accepted rather than
go through the agony of another trial. Unlike Eastern, Klein and Augente
both carried malpractice insurance and their insurers paid the damages.
The Ravenells are going on with their lives despite their tragedy. Though
Mrs. Ravenell had said she would never sing again, time and faith have
healed some of the wounds; the family has cut some new albums of gospel
songs. Two more children have been adopted.
Easter Women's Center has relocated 30 blocks south of its former premises.
It continues to advertise extensively and apparently is still New York's
largest volume abortion mill.
Dr. Allen Klein is back at his old stand in Philadelphia. A phone call by a
prospective client elicited Klein's abortion price scale: "up to 10 weeks,
$375; 15 weeks, $500; after that it goes a lot more; it could go into the
thousands, depending on the age." The informant, who identified herself as
a nurse associated with Klein "for 16 years," lauded Klein's alleged skill.
The whereabouts of nurse-anesthetist Augente are unknown.
This article, and its various quotations, are based on the following
Thomas Principe, the attorney who successfully sued Klein and Augente,
Trial transcript, New York Supreme Court #22504/85: Ravenell v. Eastern
Women's Center, Dr. Allen Klein, and nurse Robert Augente;
Charles Carillo: "Road To Riches Paved With Grief," New York Post, Dec. 11,
1990, p. 7;
Ray Kerrison, "Abortion Tragedy is a Tale of Horror," New York Post, Jan 7,
1991, pp. 2, 25;
Brenda Herrmann, "$1.225 M(illion) awarded in girl's abort death," Daily
News (N.Y.), Dec. 11, 1990, p. 13;
Emily Sachar, "Abortion Team Told to Pay $1.2 M(illion) in Teen's Death,
New York Newsday, Dec. 11, 1990, p. 6;
a Sept. 15, 1992 call to Dr. Klein's Philadelphia office, personal