Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Midwife in 1917, Doctor in 1929

On July 3, 1917, 31-year-old homemaker Helen Skoza died at Chicago's Henroten Hospital from an abortion perpetrated by Elizabeth Schade. Schade never went to trial for Helen's death, and went on to kill Fern Strecker in 1926.

Dorothy Schultz, age 19, graduated from high school in June of 1929, and was planning to move from her family home in Tomah, Wisconsin to take a government job in Washington, DC. In mid-June, her mother brought her to Dr. W. B. Parke in Camp Douglas for an abortion, performed June 19 for $150. Parke insisted that Dorothy's concerned parents leave her at his home overnight for the abortion. Her parents took her home the next day, but she became ill with chills. After several days they summoned Parke, who boiled some instruments to sterilize them before performing a procedure to clean out Dorothy's uterus. Neither this care, nor continuing care over the next several days, improved her condition, so her parents called in another doctor, Dr. Winter, who found Dorothy delirious with a 105 degree fever. At first she seemed to improve under his care, but she developed pneumonia and died on July 2. Parke expressed his condolences to the family, refunded the abortion fee, and paid them an additional $850. His efforts to convince a jury that he had merely been caring for Dorothy after a self-induced abortion failed, and he was convicted of second-degree manslaughter.

Note, please, that with overall 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.

In fact, due to improvements in addressing these problems, maternal mortality in general (and abortion mortality with it) fell dramatically in the 20th Century, decades before Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion across America.

For more information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.

external image MaternalMortality.gif

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