Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Abortion Deaths, 1920s and 1971

Safe and Legal in 1971

Doris Grant, age 32, was admitted by W. W. Williams to Doctor's Hospital in Los Angeles for a safe and legal abortion February 11, 1971. After the abortion, Doris was bleeding. Doris' fallopian was tube removed due to ectopic pregnancy. Her bleeding persisted, and Doris remained hospitalized with massive abdominal adhesions. On February 15, an emergency hysterectomy was performed to attempt to stop the bleeding. Doris went into cardiac arrest during surgery. Doris' death was originally classified as natural due to cardiac arrest. However, after her autopsy, the cause of death was changed to excessive bleeding, and her manner of death deemed accidental. The autopsy also includes a note that "Dr. does not want to sign certificate."

One of the Many Victims of Dr. Lucy Hagenow

A smiling young white woman with 1920s style clothes, hair, and makeup standing in front of some shrubbery
Nina Harding Pierce
On February 10, 1925, Nina Ruth Harding and Logan Franklin Pierce, university students from prosperous families, ran away to Chicago and were married in a private ceremony performed by Rev. S. D. White of St. Paul's Methodist Church. They took up lodging in a small furnished room.

Four days later, late in the evening of Valentine's Day of 1925, Logan Pierce took a gravely ill Nina the Chicago Lying-In Hospital and promptly disappeared, leaving her to die the following night, alone but for the strangers who had fought in vain to save her life. Warrants were quickly issued for the arrest of the flighty husband, and for notorious Chicago abortionist Dr. Lucy Hagenow.

Logan was lying low, fully aware that he was in big trouble. The only immediate traces of him were telephone messages to a private club and his rooming house, asking if a telegram had come from his father.

An unsmiling young white man wearing a coat and tie, with his light hair slicked down
Logan Pierce
The elder Pierce hurried to Chicago from LaCrosse, Wisconsin, where he had been establishing a commercial loan bank. He arranged an attorney for his son. Young Logan, accompanied by the lawyer, turned himself in but utterly refused to answer any questions and at first even to identify the 80-year-old Hagenow, who had already been arrested. At last he admitted that he had accompanied his bride to Hagenow's practice, but insisted that he hadn't known about the abortion until she became ill.

Hagenow's whereabouts, it seems, were never much of a secret, and she was quickly brought in.

For her part, Hagenow admitted that Nina had come to her practice the previous Tuesday or Wednesday, but denied having performed an abortion on her.

Hagenow was held to a Grand Jury on $35,000 bond, and Pierce on $7,500. Hagenow was charged with murder, and Logan as an accessory.

Meanwhile, a heartbroken Robert Harding came to Chicago to collect his daughter's body and bring her back to East St. Louis for burial.

A plump, scowling middle-aged white woman with unkempt dark hair
Dr. Lucy Hagenow
Hagenow, who had already been implicated of the abortion deaths of Louise Derchow, Annie Dorris, Abbia Richards, and Emma Dep in San Francisco, would go on to be linked to over a dozen Chicago abortion deaths:

Hagenow was typical of criminal abortionists in that she was a physician.

A Home Abortion Gone Wrong, 1920

On May 28, 1920, Dr. E. Anderson was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Mrs. Margaret Ann Marts. He was a practicing physician in Kansas City, Missouri.

Margaret had given birth on August 19, 1919. She recovered well, bottle-fed the baby, and began menstruating again about four weeks after the birth.

On January 19, 1920, the family physician, Dr. Davis, was called to examine Margaret. She'd stopped menstruating about six weeks earlier, had concluded that she was pregnant, and had attempted to perform an abortion on herself with a catheter. She said that if Dr. Davis didn't do an abortion, she'd find somebody else who would because she'd rather die than give birth again.

Upon examining Margaret, Dr. Davis found some irritation caused by the catheter, and an enlarged uterus which he attributed to pregnancy. However, in order to divert Margaret away from the idea of trying to abort, he told her that she wasn't pregnant.

I'll go ahead right now and fault the man for lying to his patient. Refusing to do the abortion is absolutely right, as would be pointing out to his patient the evils inherent in the act -- not just killing the unborn baby, but risking injury to herself and thus risking the security of her family. But a flat out lie is just not ethical. Davis also failed to address his patient's clear state of emotional distress in any way. She was if not suicidal, certainly in a dangerous mental state that David didn't treat.

That afternoon, Margaret turned to a Dr. Anderson, whom she'd previously never seen. He did not examine her, but made arrangements to go to her home around noon the following day, January 20, to perform "an operation." Margaret called some friends to come and assist. This wasn't nearly as shocking to people of that era as it is now. Just a year after Margaret's death a surgical textbook included a chapter on how to prep a private home for surgery.

Dr. Anderson showed up with an assistant of his own and sterilized his instruments by boiling them at the kitchen stove. One of the Margaret's friends helped with administering the chloroform. Dr. Anderson used water and cotton during the procedure, which took about fifteen minutes.

Four days later, Dr. Davis, the family physician, was called in to examine Margaret, who had taken to her bed and was in serious condition. She was expelling a foul-smelling mix of blood and pus. Dr. Davis found damage to her uterus, clearly from an abortion, and treated her for her infection.

Margaret spoke to her husband of what had happened. The conversation took place shortly before she was taken to the hospital on January 24 or 25. She told him she was sure she was dying, and that she blamed Dr. Anderson. She said that Dr. Anderson had lied to her, telling her that the operation wouldn't be "very severe," and that she'd only be sick three or four days. She said she was sorry she'd gone to Anderson. She also gave her husband instructions regarding the care of their children.

Margaret was discharged from the hospital for reasons that aren't clear in the source documents. She died in her home on February 15, 1920, two or three days after her discharge from the hospital. Dr. J.S. Snider performed an autopsy that day, and concluded that she'd died of sepsis.

Anderson admitted that he had chloroformed and operated upon Margaret  on the 20th of January, but insisted that he'd only been treating her for the infection and damage she'd done to herself with the catheter. He also said that Mr. Marts had assaulted him, choked him, and tried to shake him down for $500.

The jury found Dr. Anderson guilty, and he was fined $500.

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