Sunday, June 19, 2011

Two Chicago deaths

On June 19, 1922, 26-year-old Veronica Maslanka died in her Chicago home from complications of an abortion performed there that day. The coroner identified midwife Mary Pesova as the person responsible for Veronica's death. Since in-home health care (including some surgery) was normal at that period, the legal status of abortion probably didn't change the location, or the method, chosen by Veronica and Pesova. And since the abortion lobby is now pushing for midwives, nurses, and physician assistants to be legally permitted to perform abortions, the choice of practitioners is within the realm of what is considered adequate. Thus, it's difficult to blame Veronica's death on the illegality of abortion.

On June 18, 1928, 20-year-old Anna Mae Smith underwent an abortion at the Chicago office of Dr. George F. Slater. The next day, Anna died there from complications. Anna's abortion -- performed by a physician in his private practice -- is a common scenario today, and thus didn't really differ in any way from what would be normal for a legal abortion. What is dramatically unusual is that Dr. Slater, upon learning of Anna Mae's death, committed suicide at his home by taking poison. The source doesn't indicate if Slater's suicide was due to remorse or fear of prosecution.

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.

During the first two thirds of the 20th Century, while abortion was still illegal, there was a massive drop in maternal mortality, including mortality from abortion. Most researches attribute this plunge to improvements in public health and hygiene, the development of blood transfusion techniques, and the introduction of antibiotics. Learn more here.

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

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