Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Criminal Abortion: The Work of Doctors and Midwives

On February 4, 1928, 24-year-old Julia Agoston underwent a criminal abortion in Chicago. The coroner concluded that the abortion had been perpetrated in her home. On March 12, Julia died at St. Elizabeth's Hospital. On March 31, Dr. Anton Feher, Dr. Helen Moskowitz, Susie Kosmos, and Julia's husband Manhart Agoston were held by the coroner. The physicians were held as principals. The two laypersons were held as accessories. Moskowitz was indicted for felony murder on November 23.

On March 12, 1909, Cook County native Kate Blust, age 22, a homemaker, died at her home on Courtland Street in Chicago from peritonitis caused by an abortion perpetrated there on February 25. Midwife Emma Novak was held without bail for the crime of murder by abortion. She was indicted for murder but the source document doesn't indicate that there was a trial.

Note, please, that with 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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