Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mostly Chicago, Including a Possibly Legal Abortion from 1906

Extortion Complaint Uncovers Abortion Death, 1943

On February 14, 1943, Amelia Cardito, 34-year-old mother of 4, underwent an illegal abortion at the office of Dr. Anthony Renda. Amelia died nine days later in a New York hospital.

Renda, author of three books on obstetrics, may have been a smart doctor, but he was a stupid criminal. He implicated himself when he called police to complain that Amelia's widower, James, was shaking him down for $2,500 to cover hospital and funeral expenses. Police were able to observe Renda paying Cardito $1,000. Mr. Cardito didn't face any extortion charges, but Renda was sentenced to 7 years in Sing-Sing for Amelia's death.



An Unidentified Chicago Perp, 1928

On February 23, 1928, 26-year-old waitress Martha S. Watson , a Wisconsin native, died in Chicago from an illegal abortion. The person or persons responsible were never identified or prosecuted.


A Doc Implicated in Chicago, 1917

On February 23, 1917, 28-year-old Miss Bertha Dombrowski, who worked as a maid, died at Chicago's Garfield Park Hospital from a uterine perforation caused by an abortion. Dr. John L. Van Valkenburg was implicated.


Physician-Husband Perpetrates Fatal Abortion, 1916

Twenty-six-year-old doctor Lester Lemuel Long married Helen Turner, daughter of Circuit Judge Chester M. Turner and his wife, Emma (Follette) Turner, of Cambridge, Illinois, in December of 1915.

By February of 1916, the young couple's associates and neighbors began gossiping about a premature baby bump. Socially snubbed, the couple elected to get rid of the impending baby. Long made three surgical abortion attempts, and Helen grew successively more ill. Lester called in two other doctors, who refused to render aid until both husband and wife agreed to sign a document admitting to the abortion attempts. The aid of the other physicians came too late (not surprising, given sanitation and the state of medicine at the time), and Helen, 25 years old, died at home on February 23, 1916. The physicians contacted the police.

News coverage painted a pathetic picture of the young man, so distraught at his wife's death that it took the police five minutes to calm him down enough to tell him he was under arrest. He reportedly was seen while in jail pacing his cell, weeping and crying out, "Can she live? Can she live?"

Lester was held by the Coroner and indicted by a Grand Jury on March 15, but the case never went to trial.


An Unidentified Chicago Doc, 1908

"Mrs. H," whom I dubbed "Dottie," underwent an abortion at the hands of a physician on February 18, 1908. Two days later she began to suffer from vomiting and abdominal pain. Three days after that, on February 23, she arrived at Cook County hospital "in stuporous condition." Her vital signs were of concern but not enough to be alarming: Pulse of 120, respirations of 28, and a temperature of 98.6. Two hours after admission her respiration rate was the same and her temperature slightly lower at 98 degrees. Her pulse, however, had shot up to 160. Dottie was clearly decompensating. She died that same day.


Possibly Legal Abortion Death in Chicago, 1906

Profile shot of a scowling elderly white man with glasses and thick, white hair cut short
Dr. George Fosberg
On February 23, 1906, Bessie Orme died at her home on Fifty-Fourth place in Chicago. Dr. George Fosberg said that he had performed an abortion on her in an attempt to save her life. He had then tried to insist that she be taken to a hospital, but when the family refused, he withdrew from the case.

Dr. Frank J. Otis took over her care and was the attending physician at the time of her death. He testified, "I was summoned the day of her death. An examination showed that she was suffering from inflammation of the abdominal organs, and that an operation had been performed. I notified the health department, and when I was asked the contributory causes of death I told of the operation."

A coroner's jury was unable to determine whether or not Fosberg had been attempting to save Bessie's life when he performed the procedure, so the verdict was issued as open. This left Fosberg free in 1916 to be implicated in the abortion death of Pauline Hill. For reasons I've been unable to determine, that case never went to trial either.


Fosberg lost his license to practice medicine after being convicted of bank fraud. After his release from prison he opened a boarding house, where he perpetrated a fatal abortion on Geraldine Schuyler in 1944.

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