On March 1, 1921, Dr. C.W. Milliken performed an abortion on 28-year-old Iva Triplett. Milliken was practicing in Akron, Ohio. Immediately after the abortion, Iva became severely ill. She continued under Milliken's care until she died of septicemia and peritonitis on March 9, leaving a widower and children. Milliken was also charged with performing a fatal abortion that same month on Florence Cobb.
The year before Iva and Florence died, Milliken had perpetrated an abortion on Francis Karies,
who died in Chicago. The coroner had recommended that Milliken be
prosecuted, but there is no record that the authorities took any action,
even though they'd been told he was dangerous before he took his
instruments to Iva Triplet.
On March 9, 1914, 34-year-old homemaker Elizabeth O'Donnell died in the Chicago office of Dr. Alvin C. Hirster,
who had performed an abortion on there there that day. Hirster was held
without bail by the Coroner, and was indicted on March 15, but the case
never went to trial.
Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like
antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. 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.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion