Thursday, July 05, 2012

A Typical Early 20th Century Death

Homemaker Rosa May Swope of Canton, Illinois, died in mid-July of 1901 of complications of a botched abortion. Both her husband, George W., who was a coal miner, and Dr. F.D. Smith of Astoria, Illinois, were arrested. Smith denied having performed the abortion, saying that he'd been summoned in early July to attend to Mrs. Swope, and had found her "suffering greatly and in an abortive condition, though whether from drugs or otherwise is not known." Smith said that Dr. D. W. Bottorf had performed the abortion in question.

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. For more about abortion and abortion deaths in the first years of the 20th century, see Abortion Deaths 1900-1909.
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For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion.

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