Wednesday, August 18, 2010

1901: Abortion death pinned on lady doc

Mrs. George W. Robinson, age 28, died at her Chicago home on August 18, 1901, from an abortion performed there that day. Dr. Muenster was arrested that day, and she was held by the Coroner's Jury. Mrs. Robinson's abortion was typical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good. For more about abortion and abortion deaths in the first years of the 20th century, see Abortion Deaths 1900-1909.

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

To email this post to a friend, use the icon below.


Rupert said...

So what's your point? That it's safe and legal nowadays? We know that already.

Christina Dunigan said...

Since the points eluded you, Rupert:

1. The abortion was, contrary to the popular conception of illegal abortions, performed by a doctor.

2. Doctors at that time, regardless of whether or not their practices were legal, did not use proper aseptic techniques, and had no concept of, much less access to, blood transfusions or antibiotics. Thus abortion, like any surgery of the time, was risker than the equivalent surgery of today.

3. People were in poorer health to begin with, so any illness, surgery, or complication was more likely to cause death than the same illness, surgery, or complication today.

Therefore it's bogus to blame these abortion deaths on illegality, as it is popular for abortion advocates to do.

Rupert said...

Even in those times abortion was safer in a hospital than in a backyard. So yes, medical knowledge was a contributing factor in the death rate. But it was not the only cause. There still would have been less deaths if abortion had been legal.

All you do is reinforce the point that abortion always has, and always will, take place.

Christina Dunigan said...

I'm unclear on what grounds you can claim that, since legalization had no impact whatsoever on mortality. The downward trend had been in place for decades already. Legalized abortion is a Johnny-come-lately claiming credit for other people's hard work and accomplishments. It's the grocer, the farmer, the truck driver, and the sanitation worker, along with Lister, Semmelweis, et al, who deserve the credit. Abortion enthusiasts need to stop stealing other people's thunder. It's not very gracious. You've made abortion more convenient and socially acceptable -- in fact, downright trendy -- but you did diddly-squat for improving maternal mortality.

Kathy said...

Even in those times abortion was safer in a hospital than in a backyard.

I'm also unsure how you can claim that; or rather, I'd like to see your stats to back up this claim.

As a historical note, it may interest you to know that childbirth in that time was safest with a midwife at home; childbirth attended by a doctor at home was in the middle; and childbirth attended by a doctor in a hospital was the riskiest. It is the common belief (was then and is now) that doctor/hospital = safe(st), but there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that that is and was incorrect.

At that time, doctors in the hospital perceived the risk of surgery as being minimal, because they placed great faith in "sterile technique" to prevent hospital-acquired infection. Consequently, they used technology and procedures and medicine with abandon -- for instance, performing episiotomies and using forceps to pull out the baby, on all women, except those who had C-sections, which were also overused. When the women died from resultant infections, it "wasn't the hospital's/doctor's fault" because they had, after all, used sterilized everything. We now know that that trust was misplaced, and the maternal mortality rate was highest in hospitals due to their practices.

So, history is against you in the field of childbirth; I await your proof in the field of abortion.

Rupert said...

It's hard to take you seriously Kathy, since you have demonstrated an unwillingness or inability to provide valid sources for some of your faith-based claims regarding homosexuality.

And that whole ' science was founded by christians...' thing - wow, how foolish was that!

GG, do you have any valid data demonstrating that legalization did not have an impact on the death rate? Less coat-hangers, less 'chemicals', less old wives remedies; these were all still in use right up to legalization so there must have been an improvement.

Christina Dunigan said...

Rupert, just look at the data. Legalized abortion is a Johnny Come Lately, taking the credit for other people's hard work. Y'all don't exactly believe in giving credit where credit is do, do ya?

Rupert said...

Looks like a big dose of misrepresentation to me GG. Your graphs show maternal mortality rates per 100,000 live births. This excludes death through abortion.

The graphs for abortion deaths show a rate, ah, they don't.

Given you claim that not all deaths through abortion are recorded now, how accurate do you think the data capture was prior to legalization?

Then there's the fact that improved techniques have lowered the death rate - which may not have happened without legalization. This has lowered the death rate.

The increased usage of and better methods of contraception have contributed to a lower abortion rate with an associated lowering of the number of deaths.

The widening use of RU486 and now ella, will lower the number of abortions - which should make you happy.

So your whole case is a sham, of course.

Kathy said...

Rupert, you need to learn a little about maternal mortality before making comments about it, lest you appear foolish. [And I gave plenty of sources for the religious beliefs of those who started the Scientific Revolution; you just refuse to accept the plain implications, I guess preferring to believe the "science" of Aristotle who claimed that since women are not as smart as men, they have fewer teeth than men... never counting women's teeth to see that they have the same number...]

Maternal mortality is defined as the death of a woman while pregnant or within either 6 weeks or 365 days (some states & countries use one definition, some use the other) of the end of her pregnancy, whether by miscarriage, induced abortion, still birth, or live birth, as long as the death was not "from accidental or incidental causes" (so dying in a plane crash would not contribute to maternal mortality, but dying from abortion would). The denominator is 100,000 live births, but the numerator includes women who die of maternal causes regardless of pregnancy outcome.

For maternal mortality rates by year, click here and go to p 14. Starting in 1915, MMR was the lowest in 1915, the first year of keeping statistics (the spike in the next few years was due to deaths from Spanish Influenza), and despite (or because of) birth moving in ever-increasing numbers into the hospital, MMR did not drop below that until mid-30s. That drop coincided with a 1933 White House report on maternal mortality which "demonstrated the link between poor aseptic practice, excessive operative deliveries, and high maternal mortality," as well as the introduction of the first antibiotics, sulfa drugs. The MMR dropped precipitously from that time, gaining steam with the introduction of Rhesus blood typing in 1939-1940, which led to safe blood transfusions (previously it was hit-or-miss whether one person's blood could be safely transfused into another person), as well as the later introduction of penicillin, so that before 1950, the MMR was below 100/100,000, and still spiraling downward.

These innovations meant that for the first time, doctors had the means to deal with hemorrhage and infection, which were the primary causes of maternal death, regardless of pregnancy outcome (miscarriage, abortion, still birth, live birth) -- and these are still primary killers of mothers in less-developed parts of the world.

Kathy said...

Oh, yeah, I forgot to give the historical quotes showing that midwives had better maternal and neonatal/infant outcomes than did doctors.

Rupert said...

Kathy, you provided no evidence regarding christianity and science. And citing someone who we now know is wrong is a red herring because many scientific factors have been overturned, updated or improved. A lot of science from the times of christianity was as ludicrous as that of Aristotle. As I stated, scientific endeavor was around for a very long time before christianity - so your assertion is still foolish.

Your spin re the maternal death rate data doesn't wash.

Kathy said...

What spin? I cited facts.

Rupert said...

There is nothing in the maternal mortality rate which provides any information regarding the death rate from abortions.

The data on abortion deaths does not provide a rate.

So none of the data tells us anything.

Kathy said...

There is nothing in the maternal mortality rate which provides any information regarding the death rate from abortions.
At least it provides an "upper figure." If you estimate the total number of abortions (using whatever numbers you wish, whether governmental figures or those of abortion advocates), you can get at least an upper limit of the abortion mortality rate, which can only be a percentage of the MMR.

There still would have been less deaths if abortion had been legal.
And your proof of that is...?

Some time ago, I put together a chart of the status of abortion in the various countries of the world, alongside their maternal mortality rate. You can read that post here. There are numerous countries where abortion is illegal but safe, and numerous countries where abortion is legal but unsafe.