Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Three Deaths from Early 20th Century Chicago

On November 15, 1901, 22-year-old Irma Brown of Garden City, Kansas, died at Chicago's County Hospital from complications of an abortion performed there that day. Dr. Robert E. Gray was arrested November 19 and held without bail by Coroner's Jury. On March 26, 1902, Gray was acquitted by a jury for reasons not given in the source. Irma's abortion was typical of criminal abortions in that it was evidently performed by a physician.

On November 15, 1912, 38-year-old Ida Kloie died in her Chicago home from an abortion perpetrated by midwife Minnie Neermann. On that same day, 33-year-old Fannie Scheiner died at County Hospital in Chicago after an abortion perpetrated that day by midwife Annie Balnoka. Neerman was held by the Coroner on November 25, and indicted by a Grand Jury on December 1. Balnoka was arrested and held by the Coroner on November 24, and indicted by a Grand Jury on December 15. For reasons not given in the sources, neither case ever went to trial.

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.

In fact, due to improvements in addressing these problems, maternal mortality in general (and abortion mortality with it) fell dramatically in the 20th Century, decades before Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion across America.

external image MaternalMortality.gif

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

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