Monday, May 05, 2014

An Abortifacient, a Mystery, and a Chiropractor

I have scanty information about the first two anniversaries today.

Rosa Device was taken to Chambers Street Hospital in New York on Friday night, May 3, 1878. She was "in a hopeless condition" when she arrived. "She told the physicians in the hospital that she had been leading an evil life for three months, and had procured and taken drugs to produce an abortion. She died just after midnight on Saturday night, which would have been the early morning hours of Sunday, May 5.

On May 5, 1914, 21-year-old Hazel Johnson, an office worker, died at a Chicago residence from an illegal abortion performed by an unknown perpetrator.

The third story, from news accounts, is a poignant one. 

George Parchen
George Parchen
It was spring of 1939. Martha Wilma Rhodes Anderson was only sixteen years old, but already she was married, and already she was unhappy in her marriage. She was separated from her husband, 19-year-old truck driver William R. Anderson, who was later sentenced to jail as a car thief. Martha became sexually involved with a 26-year-old sailor named William P. Bouldin and became pregnant with Bouldin's baby. With two accomplices, Bouldin arranged for an abortion to be perpetrated at a the San Diego chiropractic office of George Parchen. The abortion was performed by George's brother Frank, who was six months into his chiropractic training. On May 3, Frank sent Martha home with a bottle of an abortifacient. This produced pain but failed to kill the baby, so an accomplice brought Martha back to see Frank, who took her into a treatment room.

At 2 p.m., Martha came out to the waiting area, very pale, bloody, and so sick she could barely speak. Mrs. Scott demanded to see Frank. He took both women to a small back room where he tried to stop Martha's hemorrhage with packing. At this point George, dressed in a business suit, came in, looked at Martha, and scolded Frank for "taking a case like that." George questioned Frank about what he'd already done to the girl, then set to work helping Frank try to save Martha, including administering artificial respiration. It was to no avail. She died some time between 5 and 5:30.

Evidently George's anxiety about the situation loosened his tongue and set him to babbling. He told Mrs. Scott and Bouldin that what had happened to Martha was "once in a million", that he hadn't been "doing any operating" for about six months because Navy doctors had been "hot behind" him, so Frank had taken over for him. He said, "If this gets out, we will go over and I will have to take the rap."

The guilty parties tried to hide the crime by falsifying a death certificate and sending Martha's body to be buried at her family's private cemetery in Texas. Somehow the authorities got wise to what had happened and had Martha's body exhumed. Dr. Toomey, who examined Martha's body after exhumation, noted severed cervical arteries and veins, and identified this as the real cause of the girl's death.

When the case went to court, each brother blamed the other. Bouldin faulted both, Frank for initiating the abortion and George for attempting to finish it. Bouldin said that Frank "shouldn't ever have taken the case, she was too far along." Both brothers were convicted of murder and abortion -- Frank for performing it, and George for providing everything Frank needed for his practice and for assisting afterward. They were sentenced to five years to life in San Quentin.

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