Sidney Knight was facing a number of criminal abortion charges in 1973, when Roe v. Wade made them a moot point. He hung out his shingle and began performing abortions legally. In March of 1974, Janet Blaum, age 37, went to Knight's New Orleans facility for a safe and legal abortion. Five days later, on March 11, she was dead of brain hemorrhage. Janet's ex-husband sued Knight on behalf of the couple's children, alleging that Knight had administered a fatal dose of anesthesia while preparing Janet for the abortion.
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
While visiting a friend
who had just given birth, 30-year-old Catherine Mau asked another
friend, Catherine Beyer, to come with her to the office of Chicago midwife Anna Heisler for an abortion. On February 13, 1929, two Catherines went together,
and according to Beyer, Mau told the midwife that "she had three
children and her husband was out of work and she could not support
another one, and that her husband was sickly." Beyer waited while the
midwife took Mau into another room and inserted a catheter. The two
women parted ways and each went home to her husband and children. Two days later, Beyer
met the midwife at Mau's home and helped her “wash her out” and put her
to bed. Beyer then took care of Mau's children. About two weeks later,
Mau's husband Frank called a doctor to report that his wife was in great
pain. A doctor told Catherine Mau that she was near death. Mau
reportedly said, “What will my children do?” A few weeks later, on March
11, Catherine died from infection.
On July 20, 1929, Heisler was sentenced to Joliet Penitentiary for
Catherine's death. She had already done time in Joliet for the May 30,
1919 abortion death of 43-year-old Lena Benich, but had been freed after winning an appeal.
On March 11, 1915, 40-year-old homemaker Emma Jonas died at Chicago's German American Hospital after an abortion perpetrated by Cecelia Styskal. Though Styskal was arrested and held by the Coroner, the case never went to 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.
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