Dr. Charles P. Wood admitted that Elvira Woodward had come to his house in Manchester, New Hampshire, on April 1 and remained there until her death on April 27. He said that she'd expelled a dead fetus on April 3, and that she suffered from puerperal fever.
Elvira took ill, languishing and finally dying on April 27, at about 2:30 PM, at Wood's house. Dr. Wood was arrested and tried for performing a fatal abortion.
During the time Elvira was sick at Dr. Wood's house, she was visited by her sister, a man named Daniel K. White, a Dr. Ferguson, her sister Florence, and a woman named Mrs. Eaton. All of them testified that Elvira was desperately ill and wishing to die. Florence later indicated that she'd known nothing about an abortion, that she'd believed her sister to be suffering simply from fever.
One of Dr. Wood's defense witnesses said that on the morning of her death, Elvira said that she'd been operated on previously by a Dr. McCooms for an abortion. Dr. McCooms had operated on her three times at a place in Manchester and once at Suncook. She also reportedly told the witness that Dr. McCoombs had prescribed oil of savin for her, which she ingested. She said that she'd expelled a fetus on April 3.
A Mrs. Merrill, Elvira's landlady, testified that she'd accompanied Elvira to Dr. McCoomb's rooms at the Manchester House on February 8. Elvira spent about an hour with Dr. McCoomb in an inner room. Mrs. Merrill said that she herself only briefly been in the inner room herself, at which time she saw Dr. McCoomb performing an abortion on Elvira.
Dr. Ferguson testified that all he knew of oil of savin is what he'd elarned from reading, and that it was supposed to be capable of causing abortion. He thought that oil of savin might be responsible for Elvira's condition when he saw her.
Dr. Webb of Boston testified that at the request of an attorney, he'd examined Elvira on March 20, 1871. He said her uterus was enlarged and he could feel movement in the womb and he heard a fetal heartbeat. He estimated that she was four or five months pregnant.
Dr. Buck testified that he performed a post-mortem examination of Elvira's body at North Troy, Vermont, on May 2. He said that there was no fetus, but that there was evidence that she'd been "delivered by artificial means." Dr. Buck said that he saw no signs that Elvira's kidneys or stomach had been damaged by any kind of poison, and that any drug that would cause an abortion that far advanced into a pregnancy would also damage the mother's organs. Dr. Gilman Kimball concurred in his testimony.
A Mr. Ober testified that he'd heard reports prior to the trial that Dr. Wood had once had an office or lying-in hospital in Hollis, and that it was reported that Dr. Wood performed abortions there.
Dr. Wood was convicted of performing the fatal aboriton on Elvira. Her abortion was typical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was performed by a doctor.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion
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