Friday, April 24, 2009

19th century abortion death

An article on the death of 19-year-old Emma Hub underscores the racism of the time. It begins, "Uncle Billy Nickens, a well-known colored character of Hannibal, was arrested there yesterday charged with causing the death of Emmy Hub by a criminal operation."

Emma was the daughter of Jacob Hub, a German shoemaker living just south of the Hannibal city limits. Jacob had expelled his daughter from the house due to "her wild habits", so she had moved in with a painter named Mathew Seoville.

Around April 15 of 1893, Emma took ill, and was tended by a Dr. Ebbits. Ebbits suspected an abortion and refused to treat Emma until she admitted to it. "She continued to grow worse until death relieved her suffering at 1 a.m. yesterday" -- that being April 24.

Emma had told Mathew Seoville and his wife that she had gone to Nickens' house, where he had used instruments on her to cause an abortion. She said that a girl from Illinois was also there for an abortion. Mathew had pressed Emma to write up a declaration.

The fatal abortion was reportedly Emma's second; the first had been performed the previous October. She also had given birth to a child about two years earlier.

The article notes that Nickens was arrested, adding, "The negro has been brought up on similar charges before, but always managed to clear himself."

I have no information on overall maternal mortality, or abortion mortality, in the 19th century. I imagine it can't be too much different from maternal and abortion mortality at the very beginning of the 20th Century.

Note, please, that with issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good.

For more on this era, see Abortion Deaths in the 19th Century.

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

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