Friday, December 26, 2014

Criminal Abortion Deaths: 1919 and 1932

Both of today's deaths from the Cemetery of Choice are illegal abortion deaths. One abortion was perpetrated by a physician, the other by an unidentified woman whose occupation is unknown.

Pittsburgh, 1919

Rose Kulamer's husband, John, said that on Saturday, November 30, 1919, she'd told him that she'd been to see “a woman in the West End Pgh.” who had used “a rubber tube” to cause an abortion. She was taken to Columbia Hospital in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania by ambulance on Monday, December 2.
According to Dr. Sidney A. Chalfant, 33-year-old Rose denied an abortion on admission, but later admitted that she and a friend had gone to a woman on Pittsburgh's South Side for an abortion. Her uterus was enlarged to three months, her cervix was dilated to admit two fingers, and a large piece of cotton, that had evidently been present “for some time,” was in her vagina.
Rose was taken to the operating room, where the dead three- to four-month fetus was removed and her cervix was packed with gauze. The next day surgery was performed to remove the placenta.
Over the next four to five days, Rose's temperature fell to normal, but then it started to rise again. Rose reported pain in her lower left leg from old inflamed varicose veins. Her temperature rose and stayed elevated for about two weeks, then fell and remained normal for about five days.
On Christmas morning, Rose seemed fine, but around midnight on Christmas night Chalfant was called in because Rose's condition had taken a sudden downturn. He arrived to find that she had vomited and been incontinent in both her bowels and bladder. She was unconscious, with a weak, irregular pulse. Chalfant diagnosed a pulmonary embolism and remained with Rose for about an hour, during which she seemed to be improving. But the next time Chalfant checked on her, she was showing signs of brain damage from an embolism. She held on until about 1 p.m. December 26.
Dr. Charles Schildecker performed the autopsy in the hospital morgue. Rose, 5'6” and 175 pounds, showed no external marks of injury. However, her fallopian tubes and ovaries were enlarged and gangrenous, especially on the left. The lining of her uterus was inflamed, gangrenous, and decomposed. Her pelvic veins were filled with septic thrombi. All of her pelvic tissues were highly inflamed, showing signs of recent pregnancy. Schildecker determined that the cause of death had been septicemia from an abortion. The coroner's jury recommended that the person responsible, the mysterious woman on the South Side, be identified and arrested.

Raleigh, 1932

Dr. Mike Roberson, age 45, of Durham, North Carolina, was arrested for murder for the abortion death of 20-year-old schoolteacher Miss Myrtle Gardner of Four Oaks, North Carolina. He pleaded nolo contendere and was given a 3 to five year prison sentence. His medical license was also revoked. This was his fourth arrest on abortion charges. He was able to appeal for a new trial based on evidence related to Myrtle's brother-in-law, George D. Clifton.
Registering as Mrs. and Mrs. George Clifton, Clifton and Myrtle had spent the night at a hotel in Raleigh the night before going to the home of Mrs. Carrie C. Forsythe, where they were to meet Roberson for the abortion.

Mrs. Forsythe, age 63 and described as "a gray-haired, middle-aged Raleigh woman," was also charged with murder in Myrtle's death. She was convicted and sentenced to 2 to 3 years for counseling and procuring the abortion. She collapsed and had to be carried to her cell after hearing the sentence. She spent the night "in a highly hysterical condition. Mrs. Forsythe had been charged previously as an accessory to abortion. Clifton was charged as an accessory

After she took ill, Clifton took her to the hospital and had her admitted as Mrs. George Clifton.

Myrtle died of septic infection from an incomplete abortion in the evening of December 26, 1932. Dr. P. G. Fox reported her death to the police after she gave a deathbed statement at the hospital.

Roberson's wife provided his alibi, saying that he was at home sick the night Myrtle's abortion was perpetrated. His defense also asserted that the prosecution had not proved that Myrtle had actually been pregnant.

Clifton was not believed to have been the father of Myrtle's baby. He was her brother-in-law.

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