On November 18, 1942, 26-year-old Madeline McGeehan died at Prospect Hospital in New York after an illegal abortion. Arrested were Dr. Joseph Nisonoff; his nurse, Camille Ewald; his receptionist, Pearl Tense; and Dr. Max J. Weinstein, who was thought to have referred Madeline to Nisonoff. Nisonoff was out on bail after being charged with performing another abortion, which the woman survived. A man identified as Madeline's friend, Henry Elters, was held as a material witness. Nisonoff was sentenced to 5 years in state prison, and Weinstein was sentenced to the city penitentiary.
Joyce Chorney, age 25, died Wednesday, November 18, 1953. An autopsy was performed at Bellevue Hospital. It showed that she had died of an induced abortion. Fifty-four-year-old Dr. Alfred Joseph was charged with criminal abortion in her death.
Madeline's and Joyce's abortions were typical of pre-legalization abortions in that they were performed by physicians.
Virginia Hopkins Watson had been on a record-setting relay swimming team with Esther Williams in 1939, and had herself set the world's fifty-meter record in 1938. Virginia was 32 years old and pursuing a Hollywood career when she became pregnant in 1954. Deciding that a baby would hurt her career, Virginia arranged to have an abortion on November 18. Her husband learned of the pregnancy and the abortion a few hours before Virginia's death from peritonitis at General Hospital in Los Angeles, California.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion
For more abortion deaths, visit the Cemetery of Choice:
To email this post to a friend, use the icon below.