Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Fatal Abortions, Mostly in Chicago

A Doctor in Chicago, 1906

Mrs. Anna May Klanenberg, age 24, died at St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago from complications of an illegal abortion on August 23, 1906. Physician J. W. Mitchell was held by the coroner's jury, and indicted, but the source document doesn't indicate that there was ever a trial.

A Lay Abortionist in Queens, 1916

Lydia Hoff of Jamaica, Queens, was charged with perpetrating a fatal abortion on 26-year-old Mrs. Violet King on August 11, 1916. Violet, who died on August 23, left behind three children.

Another Doctor in Chicago, 1927

On August 23, 1927, 27-year-old Shellane Franklin, a Black woman, died at the scene of the crime from an abortion performed on her that day. Dr. Gordon Jackson, a white man, was held by the coroner on October 28. On December 15, he was indicted for felony murder. Shellane's abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

A Doctor in Chicago, 1974

Twenty-five-year-old Dorothy Muzorewa, a nurse, had recently immigrated to the Chicago area from Zimbabwe. A jouralist's notes after her death tell the following story:

Dorothy went to Women's Aid Clinic for a safe and legal abortion on June 15, 1974. The fetus didn't die, however, and Dorothy returned to the clinic on August 21 to report her symptoms. Staff told her to return the following day. Dorothy returned to Women's Aid, bleeding and in pain. David Turow examined Dorothy, diagnosed an infection, and sent her home with prescriptions for tetracycline to control the infection and ergonovine to control the bleeding.

Dorothy's husband said that he awoke at around 6:00 on the morning of August 23 to find his wife bleeding profusely. Dorothy assured him that she was just menstruating, so he left for school. When he returned home, he was alarmed by Dorothy's bleeding and called an ambulance. Dorothy was rushed to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival shortly after noon. Only after her death did her husband, a theology student, learn of the pregnancy and abortion. 

A witness in Dorothy's apartment described the bedroom as "wall to wall blood." He found the fetus in a waste basket.

The coroner ruled Dorothy's death from hemorrhage accidental.

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