Monday, April 06, 2015

Abortion Deaths in 1873, 1880, 1906, and 1969

Sarah Hall, a widow about 31 years old, died under suspicious circumstances on Sunday, April 6, 1873 at the Grand Central Hotel in Chicago. Her death was very sudden, and this, coupled with the strange action of her physician, Dr. Reynolds, regarding her death certificate made the hotel owner and other guests suspicious. The coroner had Sarah's body intercepted before it could be shipped out of the city. A postmortem examination showed that she had died from a botched abortion. She had become unwell about a week prior to her death, and as she'd grown increasingly ill she had more medications sent to her from a nearby pharmacy. At the inquest, Reynolds testified that he'd been summoned to care for Sarah once during her final illness but that he never suspected a miscarriage or an abortion. He said that Sarah had refused to be examined, saying it would just make her feel more ill. When he was next summoned to care for her, she was dead. The family asked for a death certificate, he said, so he went and got Dr. Bell to confirm the cause of death as "inflammation of the womb followed by hemorrhage." He and Bell went to the hotel, where they found Sarah laid out in the coffin. They discussed the case and Bell completed the death certificate. However, while embalming her body, Reynolds said, he found a foul-smelling necrotic piece of tissue which Bell told him was placenta. Reynolds asked the family if they wanted a further investigation of Sarah's death. They declined the offer so Reynolds and Bell cut away the bloody parts of Sarah's clothes and put them in a wash basin prior to completing the embalming. I've been unable to uncover any further information about Sarah's death or the investigation.

On April 7, 1880, a woman's bloody cloak, with clumps of hair clinging to it, was found hanging from a spike protruding from a bridge over the River Rough, just south of the Village of Delray, Michigan, near Detroit. After two days of dragging the river, the body of a woman was found. From a description of the dead woman in the newspaper, Mr. Clemens suspected that she was his sister, 26-year-old Anna Clemens of Bay City, Michigan. Anna had last been seen alive in Detroit on April 2. Mr. Clemens positively identified his sister. Mr. Clemens told police that Anna had been engaged to marry Thomas Merritt, who ran the G.D. Edwards & Co. clothing business. They'd been keeping company for about four years. An investigation revealed the abortionist to be Dr. W.G. Cox, who had a drug store at the corner of Cass and Grand River in Detroit. Henry w. Weaver, "an aged furniture repairer," was also arrested, charged with disposing of Anna's body.

Bessie Braun, a 22-year-old homemaker, mother of two, and immigrant from Austria, died April 6, 1906, at Michael Reese Hospital. Chicago from septic complications of an abortion performed on March 20. Before her death, Bessie named midwife Julia Gibson as the person who had perpetrated the abortion, both verbally and in a signed statement. She said she'd paid $5 for the abortion. Bessie's husband, Abraham, testified at the inquest. He said that he had not known anything about an abortion until she became seriously ill on Sunday, though she remained at home until Thursday, when she finally was hospitalized. Gibson, who had been at Bessie's bedside during the declaration, was being escorted out of the hospital by police when she asked to go to the women's dressing room in the hospital basement. She was permitted to go in while a police officer stood guard outside the door. He soon heard a shot, then forced the door and found Gibson lying on the floor suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. She was admitted to the hospital for treatment and was kept both under arrest and under suicide watch. As she lay near death, Gibson confessed her guilt. I have only been able to find conflicting reports on whether she was expected to survive and no confirmation of either her death or her recovery. Gibson had previously been indicted for the November 16, 1905 abortion death of 18-year-old Dorothy Spuhr. 

On April 6, 1969, 35-year-old Mrs. Catherine Barnard of Arvada, Colorado, died of a botched criminal abortion. Catherine had flown from her home to Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City, and evidently took a taxi to the office of Dr. Virgil Roy Jobe. A cab driver testified that he'd picked Catherine up at Jobe's office and taken her to the airport, but she ended up instead at South Community Hospital. There, doctors found her gravely ill from a punctured uterus and small intestine. She told them Jobe had perpetrated an abortion. A judge had to rule whether or not Catherine knew she was dying when she confessed to the doctors so that he could decide if her statement was a legally admissible deathbed statement, or inadmissible hearsay. There was, however, other evidence that pointed to Jobe, including two prescriptions written by Jobe both in Catherine's purse, along with her plane ticket and a paper with Jobe's office address and phone number written on it. Around 40 women, identified as abortion patients from Jobe's records, were questioned about his practice, and offered immunity in exchange for their testimony. Jobe, who was later also charged with performing an abortion on a 17-year-old Oklahoma girl, was convicted in Catherine's death. However, somehow after his convictino the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor negligent homicide charge and Jobe was freed after paying a $1,000 fine.[4] 

No comments: