Monday, July 12, 2010

Today's anniversaries

On July 12, 1889, Annie Doran, from Cadlock City, Michigan, was found dead in her Chicago room from an illegal abortion performed that day. The crime scene was described as a "Medical facility", with the additional notes, "Midwife, Abortion place" and "Clinic (e.g. abortion facility)". The database notes that both Annie and the person arrested for her death were white, and that they were not related. The abortionist's name and profession are not given.

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 ordinary 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.

Fast forward to our utopian days of safe, legal abortion.

"Judy" was a 42-year-old mother of four from upstate New York when she chose safe and legal abortion in 1970. She was to have a tubal ligation done at the same time. Judy underwent the procedure, but went into cardiac arrest. Her heart was started again, but she remained in a coma for six days until her death on July 12.

Of course, we're to believe that though both these women died of complications of abortions performed by medical professionals in medical facilities, Annie's death is an unacceptable tragedy but Judy's death is just a flukey thing that we can safely blow off as insignificant. Move along, folks, nothing to see here.

For more abortion deaths, visit the Cemetery of Choice:

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1 comment:

Kathy said...

I imagine it can't be too much different from maternal and abortion mortality at the very beginning of the 20th Century.' - but you really have no idea at all.
The first record-keeping didn't start until 1915; that year, the maternal mortality rate was somewhere around 600/100,000; it spiked with the Spanish Influenza epidemic around 1918-1919, going to 900/100,000, and then dropping again to the mid-600s, but steadily increasing throughout the 1920s and into the first half of the 1930s.

There is evidence that birth was riskier for both mother and baby as it moved out of homes with midwives and into hospitals with doctors), yet the average person didn't know this, believing the hospital to be safer. It wasn't. There is some evidence that even obstetricians of that era recognized that midwives and home-birth were safer than hospital-birth (with doctor-attended home-birth being in the middle), yet they still campaigned against midwives, calling them ignorant and uneducated (at a time when many doctors started delivering babies after having only watched a handful of births, without participating in any!), and also maligning them as dirty (in contrast to the shiny "sterile" hospitals that were often anything but). Women were much more likely to die of puerperal fever in the hospital (due to generous episiotomies and a high C-section rate, with no antibiotics to fight the inevitable infections), but the perception was that hospitals and doctors were safer.

Finally in the mid-1930s, the White House released a report on maternal mortality calling, among other things, for a reduction in medical practices such as C-sections, as a way to reduce maternal mortality. The next year there was a slight reduction. Also around this time, blood transfusion became much safer and more common, and sulfa drugs became available. Maternal mortality finally began to decline. With the advent of penicillin, it began a free-fall, dropping from around 600/100,000 in the mid-30s to around 20/100,000 prior to the legalization of abortion.

Most likely, the maternal mortality of the late 1800s was not markedly different from the maternal mortality of the early 1900s (being only 10-20 years removed). It possibly was lower, due to more home-births with midwives; although there may have been advances in medicine and sanitation in the early 1900s that improved things -- moving to automobiles from horses with all their attendant manure in city streets springs to mind as a possible factor. If you know of any reason(s) that would make 1889 markedly different from 1915, feel free to cite it or them.

Stick around on the blog a little longer and maybe you'll see another of Christina's regular posts about why she blogs about these abortion deaths from more than a century ago.