Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Four more tragic anniversaries

Today's anniversaries run the gamut. To learn more about any of these women, click on her name.

The first and most mysterious is the death of the 15-year-old wife of Frank Lafavor. As is typical of the coverage of the day, this young woman is not identified by her own given name. Mrs. Lafavor, news coverage said, was "the victim of ... inhuman outrage." She had married over the objections of her family in March of 1870. A severe and unrelenting illness led two doctors who came to her aid to ask her if she had undergone an abortion. She admitted that she had taken some sort of abortifacient, eventually crying out, "Tommy gave it to me!" The newspaper noted that "Everything possible was done to restore her, but after suffering intensely for a whole week and died on Tuesday morning last [August 23] at about eight o'clock."

Mrs. Anna May Klanenberg, age 24, died at St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago from complications of an illegal abortion on August 23, 1906. Physician J. W. Mitchell was held by the coroner's jury, and indicted, but the source document doesn't indicate that there was ever a trial.

On August 23, 1910, Mrs. Louise Heinrich died in the New York apartment of Mrs. Vivian Buffam, under the care of Dr. Andre L. Stapler. Stapler cleared the case with Dr. O'Hanlon at the coroner's office, filling out a death certificate indicating that Louise had died from gastritis. Four years later, the Coroner's Office came under investigation concerning allegations that doctors there were taking bribes to cover up abortion cases. Louise's body was exhumed, an autopsy performed, and the real cause of death -- a criminal abortion -- was uncovered.

Finally, we turn to the tragedy of 25-year-old Dorothy Muzorewa, a recent immigrant from Zimbabwe. Her husband came home late in the morning of August 23, 1974, to find the apartment covered in blood and his wife hemorrhaging. She was pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby hospital. Only after her death did Dorothy's husband learn that she had been pregnant, and had gone to Women's Aid Clinic for a safe and legal abortion on June 15.

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