Contrary to the popular coathanger image, abortion-minded women have the capacity to look out for their own well being. In the days before legalization, they had sense enough to look for somebody with some sort of experience -- typically a physician.
But then, just as today, the fact that an abortion is being done by a physician doesn't mean that it won't cost the woman her life.
In early 1916, two women lay dying at Mercy Hospital in Denver. Police and doctors concluded that both women were suffering from abortions perpetrated by Dr. Bennett Graff at his offices at the Panama rooming house there in Denver, where he had his offices. Ruth Camp, whose abortion had been perpetrated on January 27, died on February 2. The second woman, 24-year-old Beulah Hatch, lingered until February 18. Ruth had come to Denver from Medicine Bow, Wyoming, on a visit. Her husband, a rancher, had wanted the baby. A friend of the family found out about Ruth's plans and sent him a telegraph. Mr. Camp had to drive 45 miles just to catch a train to Denver, arriving too late.
Graff insisted during the trial that a woman named Mrs. Fitch had called him to the boarding house, where he'd found Ruth ailing. He said Mrs. Fitch had accompanied him and Ruth to his office for an examination and "found that it was necessary to operate upon her, which he did." Had the jury believed his story they would have acquitted him. Graff was found guilty of murder in Ruth's death, and sentenced to 11 - 13 years in prison.
Though many women, as they lay dying, would protect other women by naming the abortionists who had fatally injured them, some took the secret to their graves. On February 2, 1926, Alberta Handy, a 38-year-old Black woman, died of a botched abortion in Chicago. The perpetrator was never caught.
Even after legalization, abortions still can go wrong.
Kathy Murphy, Cora Lewis, and Belinda Byrd.