Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Abortion deaths in 1930

We need some perspective first. All surgery of any sort in 1930 was done without the aid of modern blood transfusion and antibiotics. All surgery of any sort in 1930 was riskier than similar surgery today. This is the era where kitchen-table surgery was phasing out in favor of hospital-based surgery. I have an obstetrical nursing textbook from this era that describes how to set up an operating table in the woman's home to perform a c-section.

Blood banks were cutting-edge battlefield medicine just a few years before, and had not yet come into common usage. Blood type compatibility was not yet understood. It wasn't until the late 1930s and early 1940s that things like separating blood products started to come into practice. Antibiotics were not manufactured and used widely until after WWII. (See chart, below)

So keep in mind that things that may seem appalling to us in the early 21st century -- such as performing surgery in one's home -- was not appalling at the time. Things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future.

With that said, I can't find any numbers for abortion mortality prior to 1940. It seems that before that, the information available lumps all maternal mortality together, and abortions can't be sorted out. But we can hazard a guess that the numbers were at least as high as they were in 1940. How much higher? It's hard to say.

So our best guess, based on what I've been able to find, is about 1,400 deaths a year from abortions in the late 1920s and early 1930s -- a number that would combine illegal abortions, the rare "therapeutic abortion" performed as a last-ditch attempt to save a dying woman, and miscarriages.

With that established, let's look at some examples of women who died, and who did their abortions:

  • Genevieve Arganbright died after an abortion performed by Dr. Claude C. Long in his San Francisco office.

  • Alberta Beard died at the office of Dr. Davis Lucas from an abortion performed there that day.

  • Ethel Crowell died in the office of Dr. Hans Paulsen, from an abortion performed on her that day.

  • Evelyn Dellorto died from an abortion believed to have been performed at the office of Dr. Frank Psota.

  • Marie Epperson was the first in a string of Oklahoma City abortion deaths attributed to doctors J. W. Elsiminger and Richard E. Thacker.

  • Grace Iorio died from an illegal abortion in the Chicago home of midwife Stepina Pazkiewicz.

  • Dorothy Jasinski died after an abortion by an unknown perpetrator.

  • Matilda Kleinschmidt died from an abortion, believed to have been performed in the office of Dr. J. Murney Nicholson.

  • Sonia Raggins died from an illegal abortion performed at an unknown location by an unknown person.

  • Jeanette Reder died from an abortion performed at the Chicago office of Dr. Emil Gleitsman.

  • "Eudora" Roe died after an abortion performed in Wichita by Dr. C.C. Keester.

  • Mary Tulis died from an abortion performed by an unknown perpetrator.

    Here is the breakdown of who performed the fatal abortions I've identified for the 1930s:

    *Doctor: 73.68%
    *Perpetrator or perpetrator's profession unknown: 15.79%
    *Other medical professional: 7.89%
    *Self: 2.63

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

    For more abortion deaths broken down by year, see this post.

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    Acolyte4236 said...

    Good blog. It took decade after decade to rid the US of slavery. Every little bit helped.The same is true today. Keep it up.

    Anonymous said...

    Remember when the guy yells "Get out of my head!" in BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES? Look at this:

    Anonymous said...

    Oh, and Acolyte, it also took a long time to pass Prohibition. We all know how well that turned out.

    Christina Dunigan said...

    Thanx, Acolyte.

    SoMG, not to put too fine a point on it, but there's a difference between having a beer and having your child put to death.

    Anonymous said...

    Yes, of course, but there are also similarities. One similarity is, both are nearly impossible to prevent by making laws against them, and doing so makes both problems worse in too many other ways.

    Christina Dunigan said...

    SoMG, name a single human evil that has been entirely eliminated by passing laws. I can't think of any. But we pass the laws anyway to try to contain the evil. Why do so many people look at abortion -- which even most of its defender recognize as an evil, albeit "a necessary evil" -- and say, "This one we want to PROMOTE rather than contain."?

    Anonymous said...

    GG, there you go again with the obviously stupid argument. It's like you're more interested in being able to answer back than in whether or not your answer means anything.

    OF COURSE no laws "entirely eliminat[e]" what they prohibit. There are always gonna be SOME successful criminals. It's a question of degree. Laws against murder are easier to enforce than, say, laws against cocaine. (Not only because we have a former all-day-every-day user in the White House.) In cases of murder, there's a body and a mysterious disappearance.

    And to repeat what someone else said: no one "promotes abortion". Even the Chinese Government uses abortion only as a last resort when other birth control methods have failed. Using abortion as a tool to another end is not pro-abortion. The only truly pro-abortion case I can think of is the gyns in Russia in the 1980s, who opposed efforts to make contraceptives more available, in order to keep their workloads up, justify advising the government to hire more of them and give them bigger budgets.

    Christina Dunigan said...

    And to repeat what someone else said: no one "promotes abortion". Even the Chinese Government uses abortion only as a last resort when other birth control methods have failed.

    They're sill PROMOTING it! YOU were in here promoting abortion as a way to reduce childbirth mortality!

    You (and the Chinese, and the eugenecists, and the population controllers) might be promoting abortion as the "last resort". But you're still promoting it. It's still in your plan of perfectly acceptable means to achieve your ends.

    I'm sure there are some population control fanatics that would prefer to just round up poor people and sterilize them. The Stalinists preferred starving the Ukrainians to just encouraging them to abort. But abortion is still in the arsenal of weapons people bring to bear in their war against whatever it is they're fighting.

    Anonymous said...

    Suuure. That's why women get abortions--it's part of a war they're fighting.

    Sounds like you need to get your meds adjusted.