Saturday, April 13, 2013

The 1930s and Very Different Kinds of Abortionists

Both women whose deaths we commemorate today died in the 1930s at the hands of physicians, but the cases differ in significant ways.

Mamie Ethel Crowell, age 20, died on April 14, 1930, in the office of Dr. Hans Paulsen, from an abortion performed on her that day. Two days later, Paulsen was booked for manslaughter by abortion. The father of the baby, Uriah Denniston, was booked as accessory. Paulson was held by the Coroner for murder by abortion. Denniston wasn't mentioned in the verdict. On September 1, the indictment was quashed. The source notes "Circumstances suggesting judicial corruption." I have found no evidence of Paulsen being involved in any other abortions. Either Mamie was a regular patient that Paulsen intended to help, or Paulsen kept a low profile and made a point of protecting the lives of the women who trusted him with their bodies.

The same can't be said of doctors J. W. Eisiminger and Richard E. Thacker (pictured).  Thacker and Eisiminger were not ordinary doctors who just did abortions on a few patients. They were abortionists, and quack abortionists at that. They were implicated in the April 14, 1932 abortion death of 21-year-old Isabelle Ferguson. Singly or as a pair they were linked to a string of deaths:

February 26, 1929: Marie Epperson
March 19, 1932: Geraldine Easley
April 3, 1932: Ethel Hestland
April 14, 1932: Isobabell Ferguson
April 15, 1932, Ruth Hall
April 23, 1932: Robbie Lou Thompson
April 24, 1932: Virginia Lee Wyckoff and Lennis May Roach
April 25, 1932: Nancy Joe Lee

A practical nurse, Mrs. Luther Bryant Price, operated a private sanitarium in the Oklahoma City area. She told the County Attorney that several young women had come to the sanitarium for treatment after being injured by Thacker, but insisted that the abortions had not been perpetrated on-site.

The 1932 deaths did not happen immediately after the abortions, leaving the police with a slew of dead women suddenly thrust upon them. They acted quickly, chasing Thacker out of state and prosecuting him for the death of Ruth Hall, resulting in a life sentence. Since Thacker died of natural causes in 1937, even an eight-year prison term after Marie Epperson's death would have permanently ended Thacker's practice and spared many women's lives. Criminalization of abortion can not protect anybody if the laws are not promptly and firmly enforced.

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