Friday, December 26, 2008

Abortion deaths in 1925

Here I could repeat much of what I said about abortion in 1927 and abortion in 1929.

We need some perspective first. All surgery of any sort in this era was done without the aid of modern blood transfusion and antibiotics. All surgery of any sort in this era was riskier than similar surgery today. This is the era where kitchen-table surgery was phasing out in favor of hospital-based surgery. I have an obstetrical nursing textbook from this era that describes how to set up an operating table in the woman's home to perform a c-section.

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.

Maternal mortality rates for the 20th century, according to the CDC, looked like this:



This is all pregnancy-related deaths, including legal abortions, criminal abortions, miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and all complications of pregnancy, labor, and childbirth.

There was a very precipitous drop in all maternal mortality rates from 1920 to 1950. The steepest drop started in the late 1930s. Since this drop was due to overall improvements in health and sanitation, they were probably more pronounced in childbirth. If anybody's interested I can explain that a bit more. But still, abortion mortality probably was falling during this period as well, since a healthier woman is more likely to survive an abortion than an unhealthy woman, and doctors who are washing their hands and cleaning their instruments prior to assisting in a delivery or a therapeutic D&C are also likely to do so when doing abortions.

With that established, let's look at some examples of women who died in 1925, and who did their abortions. I did not choose these cases because I thought they made a particular political point, but because they were the cases I was able to find information about.

  • Helen Bain died after an abortion performed by Dr. George Slater.

  • Jean Cohen was one of the many victims of Dr. Lucy Hagenow.

  • Agnes Crow died after an abortion performed by somebody that the coroner identifies as "a female midwife", but not by name.

  • Della Davis died after an abortion by an unknown perpetrator.

  • Betty Fisher died in the Chicago office of doctors August Goetz and Henry Gautsen from an abortion performed that day.

  • Anna Kick died after an abortion performed by a midwife that the source did not name.

  • Lottie Lowy was another victim of Dr. Lucy Hagenow.

  • Bridget Masterson refused even on her deathbed to name the abortionist who had injured her, but a suicide note by her lover identified "a lady doctor at 310 W. North Ave" -- the address of Dr. Lucy Hagenow.

  • Faye McGinnis died after an abortion involving physicians Walter Penningdorf and Walter Voight.

  • Nina Pierce was yet another victim of the notorious Dr. Lucy Hagenow.

  • Kate Radochouski died after an abortion by an unidentified perpetrator.

  • Mary Sayers died after an abortion performed by midwife Edna Marie Dietrich.

  • Katarzyna Tobiasz died after an abortion performed by a woman identified as a nurse or midwife.

  • Elizabeth Welter was yet another victim of Dr. Lucy Hagenow.

  • Mary Williams died after an abortion by an unidentified perpetrator.

  • Gertrude Wynants died after an abortion by a person whose profession I have been unable to determine.

  • Margaret Zito died after an abortion by an unidentified perpetrator.

    In deference to SoMG, who isn't content that I like to let my readers draw their own conclusions:

    I find Dr. Hagenow's ability to escape justice infuriating and bewildering. I am looking into research on how abortionists managed to get into a revolving door legal system that freed the to kill again. I know such research has been done. And I think that prolifers need to really delve into it. An effective strategy to stop abortion and abortion quackery will need to be one that looks to the past for successes and failures, and learns from them.

    And it'd be nice if prochoicers managed to grasp that illegal abortion wasn't an endless vista of bloody coathangers. It was largely the work of doctors. And, frankly, Lucy Hagenow doesn't strike me as significantly different from, say, Fast Eddie Allred. It's just that Hagenow faced greater hassles if she screwed up than Allred does.

    Here is a breakdown of who performed the fatal abortions I've uncovered for the 1920s:



    *Doctors: 45.65%
    *Perpetrator, or perpetrator's profession, unknown: 29.71%
    *Other medical person: 20.29%
    *Self: 1.45%
    *Professional lay abortionist: 0.72%

    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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  • 7 comments:

    Joe said...

    The reason the old statutes did not work very well was because they did not treat unborn children as real human beings. People accused of murder and rape are not let out on bail. Criminal abortionists were, but they should have been kept in jail awaiting trial so that they would not kill more unborn children and/or mothers and also because, if they were acquitted, the jail time they served would be their only punishment. If you know you will automatically spend time in jail if arrested, you have more deterrence.

    Also, they did not allow for prosecution of mothers and fathers for their abortion crimes. Many pro-life organizations today argue that somehow parents, while they are responsible for every other crime they commit, are NOT responsible for abortion crimes. This makes no sense. You cannot effectively stop a crime unless you aggressively target both sides of the transaction. You can stop all the criminal abortionists you want, but cannot stop prenatal homicide effectively until you deter parents from committing this crime.

    If you prosecute mothers and fathers for killing or attempting to kill their children, you will deter many of them from even trying for fear of arrest and prosecution. Some will still seek out criminal abortionists. You must apprehend as many as possible to have effective law enforcement and to save lives.

    It seems that in the 19th and early 20th centuries they had weak law enforcement techniques. They appear not to have used aggressive undercover operations such as stings. Any suspected criminal abortion operation should have undercover female officers visit them, offer money for abortion and arrest the perpetrators. Every operation could be quickly shut down in this way. Every criminal abortionist taken down should be immediately replaced by a police sting to catch large number of mothers attempting to kill their unborn children. In this way you save lives of both children and mothers. Any type of criminal operation can be quickly taken down if the authorities indicate that this type of activity will not be tolerated.

    A criminal abortion operation is very vulnerable and cannot stand up to efficient law enforcement. This was lacking in the old days. Abortionists must constantly spread the word that they are in business and committing crimes. The lines of communication are very vulnerable and can be quickly shut down.

    Abortion referral networks (for illegal abortion or to go out of country) can be quickly eliminated if the people running them know that they are very likely to go to prison for such criminal activity.

    You can stop criminal abortion and save many lives, but only if you are serious about stopping it and providing real child protection rather than just window dressing.

    SoMG said...

    Good thinking! Here's what you should do. Make a big sign that says "Jail the patients!" and carry it at RTL demonstrations.

    Rachael C. said...

    Most Right-to-Lifers have not been advocating for locking up women who have abortions (just the providers), it's a strawman argument and you know it!

    SoMG said...

    Joe advocates locking up the women. I was replying to him.

    Also, why not? According to RTLism, the patients have paid for murder. Why not lock them up?

    GrannyGrump said...

    1. Proving intent. How can you prove to a jury that the woman KNEW that the abortion entailed killing a living human being? The DOCTOR knows what he's doing; he's seeing the little arms and legs on the ultrasound, seeing the beating heart. It doesn't take much to conclude that HE knows he's killing somebody. But can you prove that the WOMAN knew that the baby had a beating heart and was minding his own business when he got sucked/scraped/wrenched into oblivion?

    2. Ease of prosecution. You want the injured woman to turn the bastard in. That's hard to do if she's facing time in the slammer herself. She's very small fish. He's the one doing repeated damage.

    SoMG said...

    Then again it'll be easier to get the woman to testify against the abortion doc if you can offer her a plea. Very difficult to guess which effect would be stronger.

    Besides which, paying someone to commit a crime, ANY crime, is itself a crime, whose name is Consipiracy, or Solicitation, or Accessory, depending on the details. You may say you WANT to criminalize abortion without criminalizing the patients, but the fact is, that's legally impossible. Right-to-lifism intrinsically criminalizes the patients and no amount of wiggling or waffling will change that.

    Ignorance of the victim's rights is not, and has never been, an excuse for committing a crime against him. Even slave-owners were bound by law in their treatment of their slaves, and although the laws were extremely poorly enforced, some people did get prosecuted for violating rights they didn't know their slaves were entitled to. Ignorance might be a reason for lenient sentencing, but not for non-criminalization, or non-prosecution, of the patients who pay to have their unborn babies murdered.

    Come on, admit it. You just don't want to deal with criminalizing a deed common to so much of the female population. Wisely so. The more people think about what right-to-lifism would really be like, the more you get creamed politically. That's why the pattern has persisted since 1980: RTLs win all the elections except the ones that matter.

    GrannyGrump said...

    *shrug* If you want the woman arrested and prosecuted, push for it.