Sunday, April 24, 2016

Three Different Kinds of Abortion Perpetrators

Chicago, 1920: And Unknown Perpetrator

On April 24, 1920, Emma Shanahan died at Chicago's St. Anthony Hospital (pictured) from an abortion perpetrated by a person who was not identified. Most abortionists in Chicago in that era were doctors or midwives, which makes it likely that Emma availed herself of one of these trained medical professionals. Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future, which made all surgery at that time far more dangerous than it was after WWII. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1920s.

Oklahoma, 1932: A Doctor's Trail of Death

Virginia Lee Wyckoff, a University of Oklahoma student, age 21, died from complications of an abortion on April 24, 1932 Hers was one of a string of deaths in the city that year. Dr. J.W. Eisiminger, an osteopath, was tried and convicted of murder in Virginia's death. 

A snapshot in profile of a middle-aged, bespectacled white man with short-cropped graying hair
Eisiminger admitted to having treated her in his office on April 3, but said that he didn't believe she was pregnant. Nevertheless, Virginia spent several days in a private home where Eisiminger kept recovering abortion patients under the care of Mrs. Luther Bryant Price. Virginia was transferred from Mrs. Prices's home to Oklahoma City General Hospital, where she died of septicemia, first having told doctors there that Eisiminger had performed the fatal abortion.. A deathbed statement absolving Eisiminger was proven to be a forgery.

Eisiminger was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to murder in her abortion death. The sentence was later reduced to 15 years. He was also implicated in the abortion deaths of Isobel FergusonLennis May Roach, and Ruth Hall in April of 1932.

Oklahoma, 1937: A Midwife's Fatal Work

A glamorous headshot of a beautiful young woman with short, dark hair looking over her shoulder into the camera with her large, wide-set eyes
Merl Williams
On April 24, 1937, Merl Williams of Watonga, Oklahoma, died of peritonitis. She was 21 years old, a worker in a poultry packing plant. Her death was attributed to a botched abortion. A midwife, 57-year-old. Cordelia Moore, was charged with abortion murder. An investigation found evidence that Moore, formerly a registered nurse, had perpetrated hundreds of abortions in her home in Longdale, Oklahoma.

W. C. Mouse, a railroad engineer, testified that he had taken Merl to Moore's 3-room farm house on April 11, not knowing the reason for the visit. He said only that he had heard Merl ask Moore, "Will it be dangerous?" The state also gathered 14 additional witnesses in the case against Moore, including women swearing under oath that Moore had done abortions on them. 

Cordelia Moore was tried for the crime; her husband, John, was arrested but released. I have been unable to determine that outcome of Moore's trial.

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