Blood banks were cutting-edge battlefield medicine just a few years before, and had not yet come into common usage. Blood type compatibility was not yet understood. It wasn't until the late 1930s and early 1940s that things like separating blood products started to come into practice. Antibiotics were not manufactured and used widely until after WWII. (See chart, below)
So keep in mind that things that may seem appalling to us in the early 21st century -- such as performing surgery in one's home -- was not appalling at the time. Things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future.
With that said, I can't find any numbers for abortion mortality prior to 1940. It seems that before that, the information available lumps all maternal mortality together, and abortions can't be sorted out. But we can hazard a guess that the numbers were at least as high as they were in 1940. How much higher? It's hard to say.
So our best guess, based on what I've been able to find, is about 1,400 deaths a year from abortions in the late 1920s and early 1930s -- a number that would combine illegal abortions, the rare "therapeutic abortion" performed as a last-ditch attempt to save a dying woman, and miscarriages.
With that established, let's look at some examples of women who died, and who did their abortions. I have the following deaths:
Mary Strugnall, Amelia Stumbras, Edna Vargo, Ruth Weir
I also noted the following:
- Dr. Amenti Rongetti was sentenced to die in 1928 for letting Loretta Enders, an abortion patient, die.
- The widower of Aretta Hardesty won a judgment in 1928 against the abortionist who killed her.
- A May 23, 1928 story in the New York Times describes the arrest of Dr. Charles Brancatti after a 19-year-old fingered him as her abortionist. Brancatti was araigned and had to put up $2,500 bail.
I hope this answers any questions the searcher might have had.or more abortion deaths, visit the Cemetery of Choice:
Here is a breakdown of who performed the fatal abortions I've uncovered for the 1920s:
*Perpetrator, or perpetrator's profession, unknown: 29.71%
*Other medical person: 20.29%
*Professional lay abortionist: 0.72%
The breakdown of cases in which I was able to determine the profession of the perpetrator looks like this:
*Other medical person: 28.87%
*Professional lay abortionist: 1.03%
If we figure that the least likely to die are those who get a doctor to do their abortions, and the most likely to die those who take things into their own hands, this small sample is in keeping with the estimates of Mary Calderone and Nancy Howell Lee, that about 90% of criminal abortions were done by doctors.
For more abortion deaths, visit the Cemetery of Choice:
For more abortion deaths broken down by year, see this post.
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