On October 20, 1877, Nellie Ryan, an unmarried 21-year-old white woman from Turner Junction, Illinois, died in Chicago during a criminal abortion. Amelia Spork, identified as a midwife, was arrested for Nellie's death. Census records and city directories indicate that Mrs. Spork might have been Dr. Emily/Emelie Spork, a Swedish immigrant.
On October 20, 1921, 30-year-old Annie Sczepkowski died at Jefferson
Park Hospital in Chicago from complications of an abortion perpetrated
by an unknown suspect. Tillie Pawlowski was arrested, but exonerated by
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.
Carole Schaner was 37 years old when she traveled from Ohio to Buffalo, New York, for a safe and legal abortion.
Dr. Jesse Ketchum performed a vaginal hysterotomy abortion (like a c-section but with the intention of allowing the baby to die) on October 20, 1971. Carole was 14 weeks pregnant. After the abortion, Carole went into shock, and was taken to a hospital.
She was in shock when she arrived. Despite all efforts, Carole died
before doctors could even fully assess the extent of her injuries. She
left behind four children. The autopsy found that Carole's cervix and uterus had been cut open, and
an artery outside her uterus had been cut. It also noted sutures that
had evidently been put in by Ketchum in an attempt to repair the damage.
The sutures, however, completely closed Carole's cervix, allowing her
to continue bleeding from the injured uterus and artery. Carole was the second woman to bleed to death after an outpatient hystertomy abortion performed by Ketchum; Margaret Smith had died four months earlier. Another former criminal abortionist, Milan Vuitch, also had kept his
nose clean as a criminal abortionist, then went on to kill two legal
abortion patients. Wilma Harris and Georgianna English both died under Vuitch's care. Benjamin Munson,
likewise, had a clean record in his criminal abortionist then went on
to kill two women in his supposedly safer legal practice -- Linda Padfield and Yvonne Mesteth.
As you can see from the graph below, abortion deaths were falling
dramatically before legalization. This steep fall had been in place for
decades. To argue that legalization lowered abortion mortality simply
isn't supported by the data. And legalization did nothing to help Carole, Margaret, Wilma, Georgianna, Linda, or Yvonne.