Sunday, February 12, 2006

Abortion in the 1940's

During the 1940s, while abortion was still illegal, there was a massive drop in maternal mortality from abortion. The death toll fell from 1,407 in 1940, to 744 in 1945, to 263 in 1950. Most researches attribute this plunge to the development of blood transfusion techniques and the introduction of antibiotics.

Still, some women still met their ends by holding onto the idea that abortion would solve their problems. Here are the ones I have for the 1940s:

  • Pauline Shirley, 1940: Dubious source, supposedly self-induced
  • Mary Ann Page, 1940: Fairly reliable source, physician implicated
  • Helen Clark, 1941: Fairly reliable source, amateur abortionist
  • Goldie Crow, 1941: Multiple fairly reliable sources, psychologist implicated
  • Agnes Pearson, 1941: Fairly reliable source, doctors blamed
  • Madeline McGeehan, 1942: Fairly reliable source, doctor and other medical staff arrested
  • Cleo Moore, 1942: Fairly reliable source, doctor blamed
  • Florence Schnoor, 1942: Fairly reliable source, unknown abortionist
  • Harriet Lichtenberg, 1942: Fairly reliable source, doctor indicted
  • Naomi Cogdon, 1943: Fairly reliable source, doctor implicated
  • Amelia Cardito, 1944: Fairly reliable source, doctor implicates self in stupid crook trick
  • Beatrice Fisher, 1945: Reliable source, doctor responsible
  • Ilene Eagan, 1947: Reliable source, dentist identified as abortionist
  • Jane Ward, 1947: Fairly reliable source, doctor charged, committed suicide
  • Doris Becker, 1948: Fairly reliable source, doctor pleads guilty
  • Roberta Danks, 1949: Fairly reliable sources, doctor tried to cover up abortion by dumping body
  • Dorothy Martin, 1949: Fairly reliable source, non-physician identified as abortionist

    Here is a breakdown of who performed the fatal abortions I've been able to find information about:

  • Doctor - 64.71%
  • Amateur (No medical training, and not a professional lay abortionist) - 11.76
  • Unknown (Perpetrator unidentified, or perpetrator's profession not given) - 11.76%
  • Other Medical Personnel - 5.88%
  • Self - 5.88%

    If we look at the cases in which I was able to determine the profession of the perpetrator, the breakdown looks like this:

  • Doctor - 73.33%
  • Amateur (No medical training, and not a professional lay abortionist) - 13.33%
  • Other Medical Personnel - 6.67%
  • Self - 6.67%

    For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

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  • 1 comment:

    Raie said...

    I was looking at your information for abortions in 1940. I am currently working on my husbands family tree and came across a relative Minnie Mitchell she was also known as Costello Mitchell. On Feb. 20, 1940 at 26 years of age she died due to criminal abortion at 3 months of pregnancy, caught an infection and went sepsis, the sepsis part is what it looks like based on the writing on the death certificate. My daughter brought up a question being it was the 40's could it have been a miscarriage or was abortion called criminal for any other reason but illegal. We cannot find any other details. Is there any other information you can give us to maybe clear up any confusion. I believe this was in South Carolina and she was African American. Not sure if this information is relevant to the question. If you see this and you have any information can you please email me at Thank you very much