Tuesday, March 08, 2011

1889: Second home abortion proves fatal for young woman

Twenty-two-year-old Miss Bellville died Friday, March 8, 1889, from complications of an attempted abortion. "Her death aroused increased excitement in Astoria."
A week before her death, Miss Bellville made a deathbed statement that Arthur B. Roosa had helped her to abort another pregnancy the previous June, "furnishing the instrument and instructing her in its use".
Roosa, Miss Bellville said, was the father of both aborted children. He had not helped her with the second, fatal abortion. News coverage attempted to quell rumors that any local physicians, or any party other than Miss Bellville herself, "had any part in this criminal act."
I would appreciate any help in deciphering the jargon in the article that states: "On the other side it can be shown that the girl has been 'unfortunate' on three former occasions, and that some three other men have paid sums of money at her suit as being each the author of these respective troubles." I take this to mean that she had sued three men prior to her involvement with Roosa for "seducing" her and "inducing" her to abort these pregnancies.
Miss Bellville had been blind for four years, though what role this played in her troubles is not in any say spelled out or speculated upon in the news coverage of her death.

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.
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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 on this era, see Abortion Deaths in the 19th Century.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion.


  • "Fulton County's Sad Case", The Quincy Daily Journal, March 15, 1889, citing The Lewistown Democrat

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