Information compiled by Carolyn C. Gargaro
Why would an organization continue to exploit the death of a young girl to further their pro-choice agenda? NARAL continues to lie about the tragic death of Becky Bell. In addition to continuing to post false information on their web site, they also to promote a book entitled, Choices: Women Speak out About Abortion. In their summary of the book, NARAL contends "Becky Bell [was] an Indiana teenager who died from an illegal abortion after her state-mandated parental consent." One has to wonder why NARAL feels compelled to lie to women about abortion and save them from knowing the facts.
In addition, I attended a special AOL chat (due to the 25th Anniversary of Roe V. Wade) in January 1998 with Kate Michelman, President of NARAL. When asked directly about Becky Bell, she still claimed that she died from an illegal abortion. How can pro-choicers still lie about this when all the facts prove this assertion to be false? I encourage people to contact NARAL and ask them why they continue to lie about this.
The True Becky Bell Story
Becky Bell was a 17-year old Indiana girl who reportedly died of an illegal abortion on September 16, 1988. "Pro-choice" and Feminist organizations, especially Planned Parenthood and Eleanor Smeal's "Feminist Majority Fund," immediately seized on Becky Bell's death and stated as fact that it was directly caused by Indiana's parental consent laws. They dubbed Becky the "first known victim of parental consent laws" and launched massive media campaign and enlisted her parents to hit the talk show and lecture circuit to denounce parental notification and consent laws all over the country - the law that they claimed "caused Becky's death." As Ms. Magazine put it, "She Died Because of a Law." 
This received a lot of media attention for awhile, until the National Right to Life Committee got a copy of the post-mortem report, which showed no sign of either induced abortion or infection in or near the reproductive organs. What the report did show was that Becky Bell died of a deadly and fast-acting form of pneumonia, similar to that which killed Muppets creator Jim Henson, which had neither originated in nor had affected the reproductive system. She had contracted this especially lethal form of pneumonia at about the same time that she had a miscarriage
Various doctors have confirmed that Becky Bell did not die from an induced abortion. Dr. John Curry, former head of the Tissue Bank at Bethesda Naval Hospital, reviewed the coroner's pathology report. He noted that the report listed massive infection in Becky Bell's lungs and in other areas of her body, but there was no evidence of infection on the outside of her uterus or within it. He also stated that the germ that killed her was a common pneumonia germ "... which is unlikely to originate from a contaminated abortion procedure." 
The physician who personally examined Becky's body, Dr. John Pless, head of forensic pathology at Indiana University Medical Center, stated that "I cannot prove she had an illegal abortion. I cannot prove she had anything but a spontaneous abortion [miscarriage]." 
Former abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson also concluded, after examining the medical evidence, that: "There is no infection in or around the uterus, no pus, no odor to the uterus, and no peritonitis. The serosa of the uterus is described as "smooth and glistening. In the case of a septic abortion, this tissue would be shaggy and discolored ... Indeed, there is no evidence for an induced abortion at all: no marks or stigmata of instrumentation in the genital tract ... In short, the cause of death here was probably overwhelming pneumonia unrelated to the abortion/ miscarriage." 
Finally, Dr. Curtis Harris, president of the American Academy of Medical Ethics, consulted in detail with four leading specialists in the fields of infectious disease, infertility, pathology, and obstetrics/gynecology. The opinion of these five national experts was unanimous : That Becky Bell had an incomplete miscarriage ( not an induced abortion); that her uterus was not marked or infected at all; and that the cause of her death was pneumonia brought on by the aspiration of vomit, and that this pathology was not related to the miscarriage in any manner. 
Shortly after NRLC started distributing copies of the autopsy report and calling for a review of the coroner's report concluding the death was a result of a "septic abortion" (which the post-mortem contradicted), Mr. and Mrs. Bell dropped out of sight and Eleanor Smeal never said another word about it.
Less than six months after Becky Bell's death, Erica Richardson, a Maryland sixteen-year-old, died from a legal abortion.  Erica underwent the abortion without her parents' knowledge or consent. Where is NARAL's outrage at Erica's death? Perhaps there is none because her death did not further their pro-choice agenda.
It is a tragedy that Becky Bell died, but is also a tragedy when the pro-choice movement purposely lies and exploits her death to further their own agenda.
1. Rochelle Sharp, "She Died Because of a Law," Ms., July/August 1990, 80-81.
2. Dave Andrusko. "They Have No Shame!" National Right to Life News , August 16, 1990.
3. Joe Frolik. Cleveland Plain Dealer , September 9, 1990, page 1.
4. Bernard Nathanson, M.D. "In Memoriam: The Becky Bell Story." Bernadell Technical Bulletin , November 1990, pages 4 and 5.
5. Dave Andrusko. "They Have No Shame!" National Right to Life News , August 16, 1990.
6. James A. Miller. "A Tale of Two Abortions," Human Life International Reports, March 1991, 14.