Thursday, January 22, 2009

1900: Physician/Midwife abortion proves fatal

On January 22, 1900, Mrs. Barbara Shelgren, age 25, died at Augustana Hospital in Chicago of an abortion performed there that day. Paulina Bechtel, identified as a midwife, was arrested and held by Coroner's Jury and indicted of homicide by a grand jury, but the case was thrown out by Judge Holdom.

Bechtel was also implicated in the abortion death of Ida Henry in 1900, but was identified as a physician in that case. According to Leslie Reagan, author of When Abortion Was a Crime, it was common for female physicians to be misidentified as midwives. Therefore I am going to assume that Bechtel was indeed a doctor.

This would make Barbara's abortion typical of pre-legalization abortions.

For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

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1 comment:

Joe said...

Beneath the surface, it does appear that there was a fair amount of judicial sympathy for the criminal abortionists, as well as some reluctance and lack of enthusiasm on the part of law enforcement to really stop this crime.