Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Four Criminal Abortion Deaths

On January 23, 1913, 33-year-old homemaker. Margaret Wagner died at Post Graduate Hospital in Chicago from an abortion perpetrated that day by midwife Caroline Orbach. Orbach was held by the Coroner on January 24. The case went to trial but Orbach was acquitted on November 25.

On January 23, 1914, 17-year-old Helen Kleich, who worked as a domestic servant, died at Cook County Hospital from sepsis, arising from an abortion perpetrated on January 17 by midwife Margared Wiedemann. Wiedemann was held by the Coroner for murder by abortion, but was acquitted.

On January 23, 1925, 34-year-old Kate Radochouski died at Chicago's Lakeside Hospital from complications of an abortion performed that day. The Homicide in Chicago database says that she died at the scene of the crime, and that there was an arrest on February 11. But there is no name given for the person arrested.

On January 23, 1929, 22-year-old Edna Vargo died in Chicago from an abortion performed that day by Katherine Bajda. Bajda was identified as a homemaker. She was held by the Coroner on February 14.
On March 15, she was indicted for felony murder in Edna's death.

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.

external image MaternalMortality.gif


Miss Lissy said...

Hmmm, I find it interesting the number of times I read of midwives perputrating abortion. Were they just more common overall or . . . ? I generally don't associate them with abortion in the present day.

By the way, you always give me lots of great information - I love it! I gave you a Liebster award:

Kathy said...

Midwives used to be more common, just in general. There was a movement in the early 20th century to eliminate midwifery -- this was partly to elevate the art of baby-catching from menial women's work to the manly profession of "doctor". Plus, many people believed that doctors were superior to midwives, since they had been to med school, while most midwives learned by watching, usually a very informal type of apprenticeship. [This despite the fact that many doctors witnessed just a handful of births in med school and may have participated in none, while most midwives would have seen dozens if not hundreds of births before beginning to attend births as the primary care provider.

Plus, many female care providers were called midwives even if they had a medical degree (which was rare because women were often not allowed to attend colleges or were not allowed to become doctors).

In the 1920s, there was a concerted movement to make midwifery illegal, and in many states there are still high restrictions against midwifery as a profession, with all states allowing certified nurse midwives (RNs who complete a midwifery course), and about half the states recognizing CPMs (non-nurse midwives who have received a standard midwifery education). Still, in most states (perhaps all, but I'm not sure), midwives and nurses cannot legally induce abortions, but only full doctors can, which is likely the main reason why they are not associated with abortion today.

Of course then as now, many midwives are pro-life so would not participate in abortions even if they legally could.