Saturday, May 01, 2010

Today's anniversaries

1928: Did doc perform fatal abortion?

On Saturday, April 14, 1928, Dr. T. D. Goodman was called to see a young woman named Bessie Kouns. He found her in a great deal of pain, with considerable swelling and tenderness of the lower abdomen. Goodman went to see her again on the 15th, 16th, and 17th, but her condition was not improving in spite of treatment, so on the 17th he had her admitted to Stephenson Hospital in Ashland, Kentucky.

There, her condition continued to deteriorate. On April 24, the peritonitis had caused bowel obstruction, requiring surgery. Prior to the surgery, which Bessie did not expect to survive, she made a deathbed statement to Dr. Stephenson.

She told Stephenson that at 7:00 on a Saturday evening, she had gone to Dr. H.C. Dorroh's office to keep an appointment for an abortion. Dorroh had been drinking and didn't at first recognize her. She reminded him of the appointment. He cussed and told her to get on the table. He approached her with an instrument that he dropped on the floor, then picked up and used on her. He "nearly killed her", Stephenson testified that Bessie said. Stephenson's testimony was supported by Mr. Watt Prichard, who was present at the time Bessie made her declaration.

A stenographer was sent for to take the statement. And, despite the surgery, Bessie died on May 1.

When the case went to trial, Dorroh insisted that he had treated Bessie in February, but only for gonorrhea, and that the treatment might had caused an abortion had Bessie indeed been pregnant. The expert testimony was that the described treatment would indeed be appropriate for gonorrhea, but testimony was divided on whether it would cause an abortion.

Two women were subpoenaed, but failed to appear, who both the defense and the prosecution said would have testified that they had encountered Bessie several days prior to her hospitalization, and had been told by her that she had used a lead pencil to attempt an abortion and that she was suffering greatly from it. The court agreed with the prosecution that these were not credible witnesses, and the defense objected to this ruling.

The defense argued that the venue was in the wrong county, as well as that Bessie hadn't really believed herself to be dying when she made her statement that he had done the abortion. But Dr. Goodman, the family doctor, testified that when he would enter Bessie's room "she would grab my hand and say, Doctor, I know I am going to die." The defense argued that since she was going to have surgery after the statement, she must have had some hope of recovery.

The conviction was set aside and a new trial ordered.

Bessie's abortion was typical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was evidently performed by a physician.

1925: Fatal abortion by midwife

On May 1, 1925, 26-year-old Mary Sayers died at a Chicago residence from a criminal abortion performed on her that day. Midwife Edna Marie Dietrich was arrested the following day.

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 1920s.



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

An answer to a question

People have asked me why I post illegal abortion deaths. Usually it's the advocates of legalized abortion that dwell on illegal abortion deaths, while opponents of legalized abortion focus on cases where those nice, safe, legal abortions kill the patient.

I'm hoping that each side comes away with a lesson: For the supporters of legal abortion, I want to dispel the myth that illegal abortion was a dark and shadowy realm of drunken quackery performed by rank amateurs. The vast majority of abortions were being done by the same doctors that kept on doing them after legalization -- and what drunks and quacks there were didn't close down shop when the cops stopped pestering them. The high mortality rate was due to the state of medical care at the time more than to any other factor. And for opponents of legal abortion, I'm hoping to share the lesson I have internalized -- that recriminalization isn't going to be enough. We need to change the culture, so that people who offer a dead baby as a solution to women's problems are looked on with horror and loathing, the same way we look on slave owners today.

To email this post to a friend, use the icon below.

10 comments:

OperationCounterstrike said...

Right-to-lifers owe us blood for eight terrorist murders.

Someone should kill eight famous right-to-lifers.

It won't be murder; it'll be JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE.

GrannyGrump said...

Your soul must be the blackest pit in the universe. There is no room in it for love, life, joy, peace, or anything but your relentless drive to destroy innocents.

I pray for you but your heart is hard and dark and cold.

Why don't you try, just as an experiment, having just a smidegon of love or compassion? If you can't muster it for your fellow human beings, start with a stuffed animal or a house plant.

OperationCounterstrike said...

Bad logic. I believe in justice and a level playing field, and you make inferences about love.

The two are not related.

GrannyGrump said...

Your idea of "justice' is killing the innocent. If that's what you know of "justice", what can your love be like?

OperationCounterstrike said...

Right-to-lifers are NOT "innocent". They are supporters of terror and murder.

If you say "abortion is murder", then you are saying that murdering an abortion worker is no worse than what the abortion worker was doing. That's inciting people to murder abortion workers. Therefore, ALL right-to-lifers are, by definition, supporters of murder. They therefore deserve to be killed themselves.

GrannyGrump said...

The babies you relish killing are innocent. Then you call for the murder of those who call you out for slaughtering the innocent. Their blood cries out to God, who is fully aware of what you do and what is in your heart, and will call you to account for it.

There's an easy way to get people to stop saying that you kill babies: Stop killing babies. It couldn't be easier. And if you cried out to God for help, He would answer you. Instead you set yourself up as god and claim you have the right to destroy innocent children made in the image of God.

OperationCounterstrike said...

No, unwelcome fetuses are NOT innocent. They are guilty of remaining inside someone else's body past their welcome. That's an unintentional, but still impermissable, violation, which entitles the body owner to kill the fetus.

Lilliput said...

This is the most ridiculous argument I have ever heard! OC you are a scientist not a philosopher so leave philosophy and if you are getting kicks out of winding Christina up - talk about what you know. Look at it scientifically from a biological and evolutionary lens - why have women in the past and in the present practiced infanticide and abortion. Look at sociology, anthropology and zoology and then come up with a decent argument.

GrannyGrump said...

Lil, I think OC is one of those people (and they exist all over the place, they're not exclusively in one political camp or the other) who is under demonic influence. It's visible in the utter and blind worship of abortion (most prochoicers view abortion as a tool, not a god) and the blind and utterly remorseless hatred of anything that stands against his god, even hatred of truth and reality.

I think most prochoicers are operating on false assumptions, but making ordinary human judgment errors. OC is way over the top.

Lilliput said...

I don't think there is anything demonic here - other then the enjoyment of getting a rise out of you and the other readers.

All I'm asking for him to do is increase the level of debate here - otherwise it just gets tedious OC!!!