Saturday, May 06, 2006

Two illegal abortion anniversaries

On May 5, 1938, Mrs. Genevieve Horton, a practical nurse, pleaded guilty in an abortion case in Westchester County, New York. She was released on $1,500 bail. According to an indictment, after being released, Horton performed an abortion on 29-year-old Mrs. Asunta La Rosa, a mother of three. Asunta died in her home later that evening.


According to the National Organization for Women web site, Vivian Campbell was a recently-separated 24-year-old mother of two when she discovered she was pregnant. NOW indicates that Vivian sent her children to stay with her parents while she obtained some sort of illegal abortion. NOW provides no details of the abortion. NOW does say that Vivian asked for her estranged husband, who came to the hospital only after she had died of peritonitis on May 6, 1950.

I'd welcome any verifying information on Mrs. Campbell's death. After all, NOW also claims that Becky Bell died from complications of an illegal abortion, when in fact she died of pneumonia concurrent with a miscarriage. (There was no evidence that Becky's pregnancy had been tampered with in any way.) Also, Patricia Miller's well-researched and well-documented book, The Worst Of Times, tells a story that very nearly matches Vivian's story.

The chapter "Gloria" has a woman telling of her mother's death. The following facts match:
  • The woman's name was Vivian
  • She had two children, the older of which was almost six years old
  • She was separated from her husband
  • Vivian died in May of 1950
  • The children were taken to live with their maternal grandparents prior to their mother's fatal hospitalization
  • Vivian was hospitalized
  • While hospitalized, she died of peritonitis

Neither story has any details of how the abortion was performed, or by whom

There are some differences:
  • NOW has Vivian dying at age 24; Gloria said her mother was 27
  • NOW said that the estranged husband arrived at the hospital "too late," and gave the impression that Vivian was already dead; Gloria said that her father brought Vivian to the hospital, but it was too late to save her. (This may just be muddling rather than skewed facts.)
  • Gloria indicated that she learned the truth of how her mother died when she needed a copy of the death certificate years later. The death certificate said "spontaneous abortion". Gloria clearly doesn't understand that this means a miscarriage; she took this as proof that her mother had obtained some sort of illegal abortion. So Gloria's mother may have miscarried, or the death certificate could have been sanitized.

This is another case I will have to investigate. Gloria said her family lived in Dusquesne, Pennsylvania at the time of her mother's death. I might have a difficult time tracking down an obituary to see if the Vivian in Gloria's story is Vivian Campbell.

Does anybody know?

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

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