Friday, May 01, 2009

1925: Fatal abortion by midwife

On May 1, 1925, 26-year-old Mary Sayers died at a Chicago residence from a criminal abortion performed on her that day. Midwife Edna Marie Dietrich was arrested the following day.

Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1920s.

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

Doubtless some people are wondering why I post illegal abortion deaths. Usually it's the advocates of legalized abortion that dwell on illegal abortion deaths, while opponents of legalized abortion focus on cases where those nice, safe, legal abortions kill the patient.

I'm hoping that each side comes away with a lesson: For the supporters of legal abortion, I want to dispel the myth that illegal abortion was a dark and shadowy realm of drunken quackery performed by rank amateurs. The vast majority of abortions were being done by the same doctors that kept on doing them after legalization -- and what drunks and quacks there were didn't close down shop when the cops stopped pestering them. The high mortality rate was due to the state of medical care at the time more than to any other factor. And for opponents of legal abortion, I'm hoping to share the lesson I have internalized -- that recriminalization isn't going to be enough. We need to change the culture, so that people who offer a dead baby as a solution to women's problems are looked on with horror and loathing, the same way we look on slave owners today.

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