Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Gamut of Illegal Abortions

A Doctor's Work, 1929

On February 16, 1929, Ruth Weir, of East Orange, New Jersey, died at Orange Memorial Hospital of sepsis contracted through a criminal abortion

Dr. James R. Chamberlain testified that he had examined Ruth at her home and had admitted her to the hospital due to a septic condition. Dr. James Wilson testified that he had treated Ruth in the hospital during late January and that she was suffering from septicemia.

Dr. Maurice Sturm was arrested and charged with first degree murder when Ruth implicated him in a deathbed statement. Sturm admitted to performing the abortion, but insisted that it had not been illegal because it was necessary to save Ruth's life.

After his arrest, Sturm alleged that District Attorney William D. Ryan and Judge Hanley of the District Court had come to his home and demanded $10,000 or they would prosecute him "to the limit."

Sturm, who was later acquitted of the manslaughter charge in Ruth's death, said that that $1000 he had given the judge after DA Ryan's resignation was a gift and not part of the bribe money.



An Unspecified Midwife, 1925

On February 16, 1925, 28-year-old homemaker Agnes Crowe died in Chicago's West Side Hospital from a criminal abortion performed that day. The coroner indicated that a female midwife was responsible for Agnes' death, but did not name the guilty party.


Self-Induced in Pittsburgh, 1917

The testimony E. G. Noah gave to the Allegheny County coroner's jury did little to clarify the circumstances surrounding the death of his 34-year-old wife, Helen. He said she'd been “flooding” on Sunday, December 14, 1917 and had gone to Dr. W. J. Connelly, who had prescribed medicine for her. She'd gone back again later and been told that she had “inflammation of the womb.”

On February 3, he said, she'd informed him “that her monthly had just appeared and she had used a catheter to see if they would not appear.”

On February 5, she took to her bed. Connelly came to check on her, and she told him about the catheter. He continued to care for her, finally summoning an ambulance and admitting her to Pittsburgh's Presbyterian Hospital on February 9. There she was treated for massive infection until her death at 2:58 p.m. On February 16.

Evidently the coroner's jury was able to make enough sense of Mr. Noah's testimony to conclude that Helen died of “Puerpueral Septicemia Following Self Inflicted Abortion.”


Unknown Profession, 1890

On February 16, 1890, Mary Keegan died in Chicago from complications of an illegal abortion performed that day. Mary died at the location where the abortion was performed. Mrs. Annie Schneider was arrested and held by the Coroner's Jury. She is described as employed in an unidentified profession.

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