Saturday, July 04, 2009

A 19th Century Abortion Death

"The community around Oyster Bay are greatly excited over an abortion case that has been brought to light."

The woman, Miss Bertram, was engaged to a New York man. The wedding was to take place on July 4, 1875. But Miss Bertram became pregnant before the wedding. She purchased an abortifacient which didn't have the effect she desired, so she took some other sort of abortifacient.

This second abortifacient did the job, leading to the birth of a near-term infant, which was buried in a potato patch.

Miss Bertram, however, took ill and died a few days later.

The physician who was attending her declared the cause of death to be the abortion.

Miss Bertram's fiance denied being the father of the dead baby. "There is a suspicion entertained of another young man". Police began an investigation into who he might be, and into who sold Miss Bertram the fatal drugs.

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 overall public health 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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