Thursday, August 13, 2009

1858: A tragic death, and a contemporary reflection

Ann Regan, "the daughter of a respectable widow" in Knightstown, Indiana, took ill on August 10, 1858. Her condition deteriorated over the next few days. On August 13, she went into a severe convulsion and died.

The next day an autopsy determined that somebody had used instruments to perform an abortion on Ann, resulting in her death.

An article in The Indiana True Republican lamented that Ann had lost her life along with her reputation, her widowed mother had lost her beloved daughter along with her reputation, but "the principal actor" -- the man who got her pregnant -- was seen the day after Ann's burial, "in a company of respectable men, laughing gaily and talking lightly," facing neither grief nor social censure. "Her blood is on his hands; but then you know his fine kid goves will hide all that."

Amen to that.

Interestingly enough, the same article that called for him to be shunned as a murderer never mentioned his name. Though it does seem to assume that his social circle knows of his guilt.

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

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.

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