Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Four Deaths from Two Centuries

Antoinette Fennor died of peritonitis March 7, 1875, from an abortion performed about February 26 by Mrs. Catherine Maxwell. Maxwell routinely performed abortions, arranging for her patients to stay in a nearby boarding home while physicians that the women themselves arranged came to provide any needed aftercare. When arrested in Antoinette's death, Maxwell said that she'd had to go into the abortion trade to stay out of the work house since her husband was feeble and unable to work to pay for rent and servants.

On March 7, 1908, unmarried seamstress Nellie M. Shuff, aka Mrs. E. C. Coulter, age 26, of New Berlin, Illinois, died at a Chicago residence. The coroner's jury determined that she died from complications of an abortion. Johanna White, whose profession was not given, was arrested, tried, and sentenced to Joliet for the death.

On March 8, 1919, the body of former Army nurse Inez Reed (pictured) was found dumped in a ravine near San Francisco. An investigation uncovered that she had died the previous day from an abortion performed by Dr. Ephraim Northcott, brother of infamous serial murderer Gordon Stewart Northcott. Northcott died of pneumonia in 1928 while serving a life sentence in San Quentin, where his more notorious brother would be hanged in 1930.

Gloria Small, a 43-year-old mother of six, went to Ronald Tauber for a safe ane legal abortion. Despite Gloria's obesity, asthma, chronic lung disease, and family history of high blood pressure, Tauber elected to perform the 15-week abortion at his Orlando Birthing Center on March 7, 1978. Gloria's uterus was punctured in the abortion. She died despite an emergency hysterectomy. The medical examiner said that Gloria's medical history should have precluded performing an abortion in an outpatient setting. A court-appointed panel found Tauber negligent in Gloria's death. Tauber's license was suspended the month Gloria died; this means that if the Centers for Disease Control counted Gloria's death, they would have tabulated it as a death from an illegal abortion.

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