On July 1, 1936, Madell Williams died in a Rocky Mount, North Carolina hospital, from peritonitis caused by a criminal abortion.
Madell had left her mother's home in Nash County at about noon on Sunday. She went off in a car with Melton Baker, a man Madell had been associating with for about 18 months. She seemed to have been in good health when she left.
Baker brought Madell back to her mother's home early Monday morning. Madell was very sick and immediately took to her bed, where she remained for about a week. A doctor examined her, and on his advice Madell was admitted to the hospital.
Madell's mother went to Baker's house and asked him to come with her to the hospital and see Madell. Baker agreed to pay for all of Madell's medical expenses.
Baker denied that he had arranged or even recommended an abortion for Madell. In fact, he told investigators that they were just friends and that he had not been responsible for the pregnancy. He even went so far as to insist that he had neither picked her up at her mother's house nor had he brought her back; he had, he insisted, not seen her at all during the time in quesitons. He told investigators he had agreed to pay for Madell's medical bills out of friendship for her and her mother.
Baker was found guilty of arranging the fatal abortion, and was sentenced to 3 - 5 years in prison. His conviction was upheld on appeal.
Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1930s.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion
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