We can start by looking at mortality trends. It was during the 1940s that the US saw a huge drop in abortion mortality, due to the introduction of blood products and antibiotics.
All abortion deaths -- "therapeutic", illegal, and spontaneous (miscarriages) were lumped together in abortion mortality statistics of the time. They fell from 1,407 in 1940 to 744 in 1945. By the end of the 1940s, they'd fallen to 263.
Now for a look at some particulars. Since my focus is on abortion deaths, those will be the examples I have.
According to NOW, Pauline Shirley died in 1940 from a self-induced abortion. Perplexingly, NOW says that Pauline needed the abortion for life-threatening medical complications, but this makes no sense since doctors didn't risk prosecution for taking steps necessary to save a pregnant patient, even if these steps ended the life of the fetus. NOW does not cite its sources.
Agnes Pearson died in 1941, and two physicians were charged in her death. A blind lay abortionist was arrested for the abortion death of Helen Clark.
Harriet Lichtenberg's 1942 abortion death was blamed on a physician. One doctor and several accomplices were arrested for the 1942 abortion death of Madeline McGeehan. A doctor who was the golfing buddy of the prosecutor beat the rap for the 1942 abortion death of Cleo Moore. The grand-niece of Andrew Carnegie, Florence Schnoor, was killed in 1942 by an abortionist who was never identified.
A doctor implicated himself in the 1944 abortion death of Amelia Cardito.
Beatrice Fisher died after a 1945 abortion by a Seattle physician.
Jane Ward, heiress to the Drake Bakeries fortune, died in 1947 from an illegal abortion. A physician was implicated in the death of Ilene Eagen.
Doris Becker died in 1948 from a physician-induced abortion.
A non-physician was responsible for the 1949 death of Dorothy Martin.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion
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