Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Two Deaths from a Century Ago

On June 5, 1915, 25-year-old homemaker Mary Balcznska died at Chicago's St. Bernard's Hospital from an abortion perpetrated by midwife Veronika Rypczyski who was arrested and held by the Coroner on June 10. The case never went to trial. I have no record of why.

On June 5, 1914, 28-year-old Mary Schloendorn of Astoria, New York, died at her home "under peculiar circumstances. The coroner investigated and discovered that Mary had died from septicemia and blood poisoning due to an incomplete abortion. By questioning Mary's family and friends, the coroner concluded that the abortion had been perpetrated by a midwife.

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.

The idea that recriminalizing abortion will result in an increase in maternal deaths simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Though at first it's counter-intuitive, tightening laws will make doctors who continue to do abortions more careful not to harm their patients, will make women more wary, and will significantly reduce the number of abortions perpetrated, all of which will work together to maintain a low death rate.

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

external image MaternalMortality.gif

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