Saturday, January 07, 2012

Two Doctors' Fatal Handiwork

On January 7, 1901, 21-year-old Juliet K. Pottinger (alt. Julia K. Pettinger) died in her home at 520 Wood St., Chicago, from an abortion performed there that day. Dr. Maggie Becker was arrested April 24, based on a coroner's verdict that day. Juliet had been a homemaker. Her husband, 23-year-old James A. Pottinger, was left to raise their toddler daughter. Becker was held to grand jury, tried, convicted, and sentenced to 14 years in Joilet Penitentiary. Julia's abortion was typical of criminal 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.

The January 7, 1922 death of Irene Michaelson of Philadelphia presents ground for head-scratching. Irene reportedly died of peritonitis at City Hospital in Atlantic City, New Jersey, after leaping from the second-story window of the Bricker Sanitarium, "in the heart of the most exclusive residential section of Atlantic City." Dr. William H. Bricker Jr., of Philadelphia and Atlantic City, was was captured in Philadelphia. At trial, he, was found guilty of performing the abortion that killed Irene and was sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison, and fined $5,000. News coverage says, "Bricker collapsed when sentence was pronounced."

external image Illegals.png

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

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