Sunday, May 21, 2017

Fatal Abortions in Different Eras

Scanty Info on Safe-and-Legal Death

Little is known about Sharon Margrave, but on May 21, 1970, she died following a safe and legal abortion in Los Angeles County, California. She was 25 years old, a native of Oregon.


Third Known Death of a Gertrude Pitkanen Patient
A B&W portrait of a middle-aged, plump white woman with round eyeglasses and short, curly, dark hair.
Gertrude Pitkanen
On May 21, 1939, 37-year-old widow Hilja Johnson of Butte, Montana, died at Butte's Murray Hospital from septic complications of an incomplete abortion. Since her death certificate says, "Infection from gas producing bacteria," she most likely died from a Clostridium perfringens infection, most commonly known as gas gangrene.
A surgical nurse, Gertrude Pitkanen, admitted at the coroner's inquest that Hilja had come to her office, and that she had later visited Hilka at her home and advised her to go to a hospital. Pitkanen was charged with murder in Hilja's death.

She fled, but was located about a year later, living near Columbia Gardens. She was brought to court in a wheelchair, pleaded innocent, and was jailed in lieu of $5,000 bond. The charges were dropped in 1940, for reasons not reported.< Pitkanen had earlier been charged with the abortion deaths of Violet Morse (August, 1929) and Margie Fraser (October, 1936). The fact that Pitkanen had married a former Butte police detective might explain the lack of prosecution in spite of the multiple deaths.


Mystery Abortion in Pittsburgh

According to her husband, Baptist, 26-year-old Pittsburgh homemaker Mary Jane Douds had been in ill health for four years. When he'd come home from work on the morning of Monday, May 18, 1900, he found her sick in bed. He wanted to call a doctor, but “she would not have it.” Baptist figured that his wife must be menstruating, since she always had difficult periods.

When he came home on Saturday, he found Mary Jane in even worse condition. He sent for Dr. Staub, who treated her four or five times before recommending that she go to the hospital on Sunday. Mary Jane refused, asking for her old doctor, Dr. Heurits of Turtle Creek, who came to the house at about noon.

Heurits examined Mary Jane, and said “there was no danger for her to keep quiet and she would be all right in a few days.” He prescribed medication for Mary Jane, but she couldn't keep it down.

Baptist sent for another doctor, J.J. Green, who arrived at about 8:30 on the evening of May 20, then sent for his assistant, who stayed to provide care to Mary Jane under Green's supervision until about 3 a.m. She got weaker and finally lost consciousness a few minutes before her death at around 9:00 a.m. On May 21.

Green diagnosed her cause of death as septic peritonitis from an abortion performed by an unknown perpetrator.

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