I know little of the May 18, 1925 death of Della Davis, a 25-year-old Black woman. Della died in Chicago from an illegal abortion performed that day, leaving behind her husband, Huston. The person responsible for her death was never caught.
Far more information is available about th 1958 death of 20-year-old Janice Easterbrook. She lived with her parents, Mr.
and Mrs. Ernest Easterbrook in Arcadia, Nebraska. Two doctors in
Nebraska had already told them that Janice was pregnant, and the family
traveled to Kansas City for a third opinion from Dr. William M. Korth.
With lab tests and an exam, he confirmed that Janice was about 3 to 3
1/2 months pregnant. Korth later testified that there had been no signs
of either health problems that would prevent Janice from carrying to
term, or that anybody had tried to tamper with the pregnancy.
With this confirmation of pregnancy, the Easterbrooks went to Dr. Harry Werbin's office to try to arrange an abortion. He was closed for the day so they returned the next morning, May 16, 1958.
The receptionist greeted them and made an appointment for them to meet
with Werbin at 11:30 that morning. The Easterbrooks told Werbin that
they wanted the baby aborted. Werbin took Janice into his office to
examine her, then consulted with her parents, explaining that he charged
$100 per month of pregnancy, so the charge for Janice's abortion would
The parents asked Werbin if the abortion would be dangerous, but he
assured them that he wasn't having any "bad luck," and that a day or two
after the abortion Janice would be able to continue on a trip through
the Ozarks with her family. Mr. Easterbrook handed $300 to his wife, who
handed the $300 to their daughter, who handed it to the doctor.
Werbin asked when they wanted the abortion done, and Janice said, "Now
is as good a time as any." Werbin took her back into his private office.
About ten or fifteen minutes later, Janice emerged, no seeming ill, but
with some blood drops on her shoes. Werbin took her back into his
office, and instructed her mother to go down to the drug store and buy
When Mrs. Easterbrook returned with the Kotex, the parents asked Werbin
if Janice should go to the hospital, and he said, "No. Let's leave the
hospitals out of it. I know how to take care of it, and what to do." He
gave Janice some medication, and gave her parents one of his cards, on
which he'd written the name of the U-Smile Motel on Highway 40.
Janice returned with her family on Saturday morning, May 17, per
Werbin's instructions. Werbin took her back into his office for about
fifteen minutes. When Janice emerged, she was crying and told her
parents, "He hurt me."
That evening at the motel, Janice began to vomit violently. Her mother
called Werbin, who demurred at first, but came to check on his patient
once her mother insisted. He came back and forth to the motel several
times, spending more and more time on each visit, staying there most of
Saturday night. Janice was sick and in a lot of pain, and Mrs.
Easterbrook again suggested taking Janice to a hospital. Werbin
reassured the parents that it was not uncommon for women to be in
Janice's condition after an abortion. He used a curved instrument about
ten inches long to remove some tissue from her vagina.
On Sunday morning, Janice got up to use the toilet, where she passed a
mutilated fetus about six inches long. Her parents summoned Werbin, who
summoned Dr. Richard Mucie
to assist him at about 11:00 a.m. Janice's parents were alarmed that
she appeared blue and was breathing rapidly. Werbin and Mucie held a
quiet conversation that the parents couldn't overhear, then Mucie picked
Janice up and carried her out to Werbin's car, telling her parents to
caravan with them to Independence Hospital.
After driving about six miles east, Werbin did a U-turn, and the
Easterbrooks lost him in traffic. Werbin went to General Hospital, where
he met Joseph L. Connors, a non-physician and deputy coroner, at about
3:10 p.m., telling him that the dead woman in his car was a patient he'd
been called to treat at the U-Smile for hemorrhage.
Mucie testified that Werbin had called him in to assist in treating a
botched self-induced abortion at the motel, and that Werbin had
performed a curretage to remove tissue, while Mucie had given her
medications to stimulate circulation. Mucie concluded that Janice had
died from an embolism, possibly air or a clot lodged in the heart or
lungs. He said that the reason they'd not taken Janice to Independence
Sanitarium was that Independence wasn't friendly to osteopaths.
The Jackson County Coroner, Dr. Hugh H. Owens, performed the autopsy
that afternoon, May 18, and found ample evidence of a pregnancy and an
abortion performed with instruments. Janice's uterus had been
perforated, and Owens concluded that she had bled to death.
Werbin was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to two years. His sentence was upheld on appeal.