Friday, December 23, 2016

From Doctors in New York to a Lover in Michigan

Safe and Legal in New York, 1970

"Kimberly" is one of the women Life Dynamics identifies on their "Blackmun Wall" as having been killed by a safe and legal abortion. Kimberly was 25 years old and 18 weeks pregnant when she underwent a safe, legal abortion under the new law, in New York City on December 23, 1970. During the abortion, she went into cardiac arrest and died, leaving behind two children.

The 1970 liberalization of abortion had made New York an abortion mecca until the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling that abortionists could legally set up shop in any state of the union. In addition to "Kimberly," these are the women I know of who had the dubious benefit of dying from the newfangled safe-and-legal kind of abortion in pre-Roe New York:


One of a String of Dr. Brewer's Dead, Oklahoma, 1931

Newspaper clipping of a bald, middle-aged white man wearing round black spectacles, in 3/4 profile and with a grim facial expression
Dr. Guy E. Brewer
On June 7, 1935, Dr. Guy E. Brewer pleaded guilty to six counts of manslaughter for the deaths of six women who died from complications of abortions he had perpetrated. He was sentenced to serve six consecutive four-year terms. He spent his incarceration working in the prison hospital. One of those young women was Myrtle Rose, age 21, of Ponca City, Oklahoma, on December 23, 1931. The other women include Hermoine Fowler, Ruby Ford, Doris Jones, Elizabeth Shaw, and Wanda Lee Gray.

Brewer was sentenced to six four-year sentences, to run concurrently, for six abortion deaths. The likely reason that he got such a light sentence was his extreme popularity for his benevolence in putting local young men through college. So beloved was Brewer that one victim's husband was fired in retaliation for reporting his wife's death to the police.


Body Dumped by New York Physician, 1934

On Christmas day of 1934, the nude body of a young woman was found under a pile of leaves in a thicket near a highway south of New York City. Eventually the date of death was determined to be December 23.


News clipping headshot of a young white woman with blonde hair coiffed in a 1930s style
Loretta Wilson
Laura and Joseph Devine, whose 19-year-old daughter, Loretta Wilson, had been missing since December 19, contacted authorities and were able to positively identify the body. An autopsy revealed that she had bled to death from complications of an abortion

Loretta had left home at noon on the 19th, telling the landlady that she was going to see a doctor. Her husband of two years, William, knew better. Though initially he'd denied even knowing that Loretta had been pregnant, he later said he'd paid Dr. John H. Becker Jr., age 52, $55 for the abortion. He added that his wife's friend, Kay Dinger, had been present when the transaction took place.

Becker admitted to having been paid $2 for examining Loretta on December 17, but denied perpetrating the abortion. He said that she was supposed to return on the 18th but failed to show up. However, his assertion that he'd not seen Loretta after the 17th was challenged by a witness who picked Becker out of a lineup of seven men as the one he'd seen standing by a car near the area where Loretta's body was found.

Becker was found guilty and sentenced to between 18 months and three years in Sing-Sing.



Fatal Mystery Abortion in Chicago, 1909

"Sadie," identified in the source document as "Mrs. D," was 39 years old in November of 1909 when she either had a miscarriage or an illegal abortion. Five weeks later, on December 21, she was admitted to Cook County Hospital. She was vomiting and obviously very ill. Her pulse was 108, her respirations 28, her temperature 100 degrees.

The next day her temperature had fallen to 97.6, and her pulse and respirations had increased to 132 and 30, respectively. For reasons the document doesn't provide, she endured slightly over two hours of surgery during which surgeons removed both of her Fallopian tubes, drained her pelvic cavity, then curetted her uterus and packed it with alcohol gauze. The surgery sent her into shock and she died 14 hours later, either on December 22 or December 23.



Dead at her Lover's Hands, 1885

Harry McDowell began calling at the home of Dr. Truman Sawdy of Howard City, about 40 miles north of Grand Rapids, Michigan, to visit Dr. Sawdy's 21-year-old daughter, Sylvia. McDowell usually came on Sundays and in the evening, and also corresponded with Sylvia.

On December 10, 1885, Sylvia went to Grand Rapids by train, ostensibly to visit McDowell's mother. Dr. Sawdy heard nothing more from or about his daughter until the morning of Christmas Eve, when McDowell's father came to him, saying that he'd gotten a telegram or telephone call from his son. The senior McDowell said that Harry had told him that Sylvia was very sick and wanted her mother, Cornelia, to go to her.

Dr. Sawdy read the next day in the newspaper that his daughter was dead.

It came out in the trial that in November, Sylvia had consulted with Drs. Bodle, Hake, and Bradish, indicating that she was pregnant. Evidence indicated that McDowell had performed an abortion on Sylvia on December 23, and that she died that day. McDowell was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years.

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