Saturday, March 20, 2010

1906: Home abortion proves fatal

The year was 1906. Anna Gosch's boyfriend, Mr. Edwards, admitted that he knew Anna, that they'd had a sexual relationship, and that she had called him to tell him that her period was late. He admitted that he went to Kearney, and got a hotel room with the intent of performing an abortion. While Anna and her boyfriend were in the room, a bellboy came and objected to the presence of a woman in Edwards' room.

The next day, Edwards said, he took her to her home, and using a speculum he tried to insert a catheter into her uterus, but was unsuccessful. He said that Anna went upstairs and returned with a catheter with a wire in it. He said that he used this on Anna, and then bent the wire and threw it away.

A witness said that Edwards denied having done the abortion himself. He said that Anna had gone upstairs, then come down and told him that she thought "she had done it." But a speculum and three catheters were in Edwards' valise when he was arrested.

A physician, Dr. Cameron, was called on Thursday, March 15. He saw her twice a day until the Monday before her death, at 2 or 3:00, consulted with another physician, and concluded that Anna was going to die.

Dr. Cameron testified,"I asked her what had been done to make her sick, and she said there had been a man had passed an instrument into her with a wire in it, rubber with a wire in it. I asked her when that had been done, and she said Monday; she thought it was Monday night." When asked about who the man was, "She said he was a man who traveled for rubber goods or instruments of some kind, said he was a traveling man."

Anna Gosch died on Tuesday, March 20, 1906, at 6:10 PM.

Edwards was convicted of homicide.

Anna's death is similar to the death of "Daisy" Roe, a systems analyst who died in 1990 after allowing her boyfriend to attempt to perform an abortion on her with a piece of aquarium tubing.

It was also unusual in that it was performed by an amateur, rather than by a doctor, as was the case with perhaps 90% of criminal abortions.

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 about abortion and abortion deaths in the first years of the 20th century, see Abortion Deaths 1900-1909.

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

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