Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Two anniversaries: legal and illegal

"Danielle" is one of the women Life Dynamics identifies on their "Blackmun Wall" as having been killed by a legal abortion. Danielle, age 18, had traveled from Massachusetts to New York for a safe and legal abortion. On May 17, 1972, the abortion was performed. Minutes after the abortion was completed, Danielle was dead. She'd developed arterial and veous air emboli.

On May 17, 1904, Miss Margaret McCarthy died in Chicago's Mary Thompson Hospital from an illegal abortion performed some days earlier at an unknown location. Mrs. Gertrude Plenz was arrested on May 21 for the death, and Benjamin Frederick, a boiler inspector, arrested for complicity. Both Plenz and Frederick were held by Coroner's Jury.

Plenz is listed as an unskilled laborer in this arrest, but when she was arrested for the abortion death of Sarah Cushing, her profession was given as midwife, and the fatal abortion was listed as having been performed at a hospital.

Margaret's abortion was unusual in that it was performed by a midwife, rather than by a doctor, as was the case with perhaps 90% of criminal abortions.
Note, please, that with general 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, seeAbortion Deaths 1900-1909.

external image Illegals.png

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

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