Friday, December 14, 2012

Four 20th Century Abortion Deaths

On December 14, 1911, 34-year-old mother-of-four Mrs. Ella Kettler died from an abortion that Dr. Robert H. Foster had perpetrated at his practice on December 2. Foster was held by the Coroner's Jury and indicted on December 19, but the case never went to trial.

On December 14, 1916, 19-year-old Eleanor Dillon, who worked as a clerk, died at Chicago's Columbus Hospital from a criminal abortion perpetrated by Dr. M.R. Perlstein that day. Perlstein was arrested December 15, and Michael Schackman and Abraham Kruchersky were held as accessories. Perlstein was acquitted on May 18, 1918.

Walter Hufnagel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, noticed on December 4, 1918, that his wife, 19-year-old Emma Hufnagel, was sick with body aches. The next day he called Dr. C. Barton, who diagnosed the young homemaker with influenza. By December 7, Emma's stepmother, Louise Jackson, was told of Emma's illness and went to visit her. Emma told her mother that, since her period had been about two weeks late, and believing herself to be pregnant, she had used a catheter on herself on November 30. By December 10, Emma's family was so alarmed by her condition that they brought her to Presbyterian Hospital. In spite of doctors' best efforts, Emma died of peritonitis and septicemia on December 14.

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.

For more information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.

external image MaternalMortality.gif

Edith Cote was 38 years old when she submitted to a safe and legal abortion in New York. On December 14, 1991, she was unresponsive and was taken to the emergency room at Syosset Hospital. Hospital staff were unable to save Edith's life. Her cause of death was listed on her death certificate as pulmonary amniotic embolism after an induced abortion.

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