Friday, May 07, 2010

1905: Patient's mom clears docs in fatal abortion

On May 7, 1905, Mrs. Hannah Calhoun died in Peoria, Illinois, from fever and blood poisoning attributed to an abortion.

At first, Dr. J. W. Parker and his assistant, Dr. John Peattie, were held in the death. Then the Grand Jury heard from Sophia Spellman, Hannah's mother. Her testimony, to the effect that Parker had only been called in to attend to Hannah after she had taken ill, was enough to lead the Jury to exonerate the men, though they were reputed abortionists. Parker had been charged in another abortion, evidently not fatal, several years earlier.

Hannah's mother would not concede that Hannah had aborted the pregnancy, but said that if there had been an abortion performed, Hannah must have done it herself.

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 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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