With that said, here's the chart. Legal abortion deaths are orange, illegal abortion deaths are purple. The top line is the total of both legal and illegal.
I've looked at the period from 1945 to 1965, to give a context to the 1950s.
I have no idea why the trends in the 1950s look the way they do. After the precipitous drop in the 1940s, due to the development of antibiotics, transfusions, and other ways of treating sick and injured patients, we see the decline slow, then slowly reverse itself, until it resumes falling in 1962. There were no changes in the laws, and rubella and thalidomide -- causing an increase in birth defects -- were yet out on the horizon, so there was no reason for the number of abortions to rise. I even considered the Baby Boom, but the surge in births began before 1940, and more than half of this surge in births coincided with the massive plunge in abortion deaths from 1940 to 1950. Any theories?
Here are the deaths I know of for the 1950s. I didn't choose these deaths because I thought they made any particular point; they were just the ones I could find information on by searching Westlaw and old newspaper archives.
Here is a breakdown of who performed these fatal abortions:
If we look only at those cases in which I was able to determine the profession of the perpetrator, the breakdown looks like this:
I found this breakdown quite surprising, and a departure from the other pre-legalization decades, where physicians were the primary parties responsible for fatal abortions. I am theorizing that there might be some connection between this and the rise in abortion deaths during this decade.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion
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