Friday, December 23, 2011

Two Holiday Tragedies

On December 23, 1885, Dr. Truman Sawdy's 21-year-old daughter, Sylvia, was in Grand Rapids, Michigan, ostensibly visiting the mother of Harry McDowell, the young man who had been courting her. Sylvia had left her home in Howard City by train to make the 40-mile trip on December 10. Dr. Sawdy hadn't heard of or from her since she'd left. And he was never going to hear from her again. On the morning of Christmas Eve, Harry's father came to the house and said that he'd heard from Harry. Sylvia had taken ill and wanted her mother, Cornelia, to go to her. The following day, Christmas day, Dr. Sawdy opened his newspaper and read that his daughter was dead. It came out in the trial that in November, Sylvia had consulted with Drs. Bodle, Hake, and Bradish, indicating that she was pregnant. Evidence indicated that McDowell had performed an abortion on Sylvia on December 23, and that she died that day. McDowell was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years.

"Kimberly" was 25 years old and 18 weeks pregnant when she underwent a safe, legal pre-Roe abortion in New York City on December 23, 1970. During the abortion, she went into cardiac arrest and died, leaving behind two children.


Lindsay said...

We truly need to prevent these tragedies! Safe, legal and rare abortions under the care of medical providers would have prevented these deaths. Or of course, birth control would have been the best avenue, but I do not know how successful the methods were then.

Kathy said...


Kimberly's death was a "safe, legal abortion" done by a medical doctor, yet she still died. Look at the date again -- 1970, when abortion was legal in NY. Peruse the blog some more, and you'll see that almost all of the abortion deaths -- legal or *illegal* -- were at the hands of medical personnel, most of them practicing doctors. The problem wasn't that abortions were illegal, it's that they were inherently unsafe, especially in the days before antibiotics, safe blood transfusion, and sterilized medical equipment. Even today with our modern standards, abortionists are still managing to kill many women, frequently because they are grossly negligent and do things like allow untrained personnel to administer medications including anesthesia.

Christina Dunigan said...

Lindsay, thanks for pointing out that I hadn't made it clear that Kimberly's abortion was of the safe and legal kind. I've included a link and will go through the Cemetery of Choice and add that link to all the pre-Roe legal abortion stories.