Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Two criminal deaths, one vigorously prosecuted

Miss Mary Park, a 24-year-old schoolteacher of Greenley, Colorado, died August 9, 1917. Four years later, Dr. Nicholas J. Phelan was tried of murder in her death from illegal abortion, but he was acquitted by reason of insanity and sent to a mental hospital. The next year, Mary's body was exhumed, and Dr. E.L. Willis of Denver was subsequently tried and convicted in her death. He had been party to the abortion, performed at the Colonia Hotel in Denver. Willis was sentenced to 10 - 15 years in prison for Mary's death. It would be better for women, I think, if we had retained this persistence in finding and bringing to justice those quacks who kill women in abortions, rather than just shrugging them off the way we do in our enlightened days.

On August 9, 1927,
Irene Campbell died in the Chicago office of Dr. Herman Webber from an abortion performed there that day. Webber was arrested on August 9, and on September 1 he was indicted for felony murder. Irene's abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician. Sadly, Chicago was not as diligent as Denver in prosecuting criminal abortionists. More research is needed into why this was the case, and how many women paid with their lives for this lack of diligence.

During the first two thirds of the 20th Century, while abortion was still illegal, there was a massive drop in maternal mortality, including mortality from abortion. Most researches attribute this plunge to improvements in public health and hygiene, the development of blood transfusion techniques, and the introduction of antibiotics. Learn more here.

external image MaternalMortality.gif

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