Thursday, July 04, 2013

Chicago 1913 and Oyster Bay 1875

On July 4, 1913, Russian immigrant 33-year-old Mary Goldstein died in Chicago from an abortion perpetrated by Minnie Bernstein. Bernstein is identified only as "abortion provider", so she might have been a lay abortionist. She was held by the Coroner, and indicted by the Grand Jury for felony murder on September 1, but the case never went to trial.

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

The other death we commemorate today comes from the 19th century, and reveals interesting cultural differences between that time and ours.

The only source I have for the death is a news clipping that begins, "The community around Oyster Bay are greatly excited over an abortion case that has been brought to light." The woman, identified only as Miss Bertram, was engaged to a New York man who was never identified. The wedding was to take place on July 4, 1875, but Miss Bertram became pregnant before the wedding. She purchased an abortifacient which didn't have the effect she desired, so she took some other sort of abortifacient. This second abortifacient did the job, leading to the birth of a near-term infant, which was buried in a potato patch. Miss Bertram, however, took ill herself and died a few days later. The physician who was attending her declared the cause of death to be the abortion. Miss Bertram's fiance denied being the father of the dead baby. "There is a suspicion entertained of another young man". Police began an investigation into who he might be, and into who sold Miss Bertram the fatal drugs.

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