Friday, December 18, 2015

Two Illegal Deaths -- 1923 and 1982

On December 18, 1923, 40-year-old Sophia Hartozinski died at Chicago's County Hospital due to a criminal abortion performed there that day. The coroner identified midwife Mary Roback as having been responsible for Sophia's death. Keep in mind that things that may seem appalling to us in the early 21st century -- such as performing surgery in one's home -- was not appalling at the time. Things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1920s.

News articles indicate that Myrtha Baptiste, age 26, had a safe and legal abortion of her 10 week pregnancy performed by Orlando Zaldivar at Woman's Care Clinic December 18, 1982. Myrtha, a mother of two, arrived at the hospital in critical condition due to delay of transfer by the clinic staff. She bled to death from two uterine perforations. Zaldivar could not be reached for seven hours while hospital staff were struggling to save his patient's life. Since Zaldivar's license was inactive at the time he performed Myrtha's abortion, the CDC classified her death as being due to illegal abortion rather than legal abortion. This effectively hides her death from a legal abortion death tally. The other deaths at that facility -- Ruth Montero, Shirley Payne, and Maura Morales -- were counted as legal abortion deaths.

If you are tempted to attribute Sophia's death to the fact that abortion was illegal and Myrtha's (and Ruth's, Shirley's, and Maura's) to "all surgery has risks," consider the following graph. Legalization didn't even amount to a blip in the trend toward safer abortions for women.


3 comments:

matthew murray said...

Cool blog. It would also be worth while to start posting stories of women who were denied abortions before legalization who seemed to have needed them medically, and were severely injured or dies from a lack of termination. I think you're research on abortion deaths should also include those that are related to the mother not having an abortion.

matthew murray said...
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matthew murray said...
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