Thursday, December 03, 2015

The Work of Physician Abortionists in 1917 and 1878

Early 20th century portrait of a dignified-looking older white man wearing a bow tie.
Dr. C Allen Snyder
Grace Wolf, a young married woman, traveled from her home in Lansing, Iowa to the office of Dr. C. Allen Snyder in Dubuque on November 19, 1917. She arrived at about 8:00 in the evening. Shortly after leaving, she took ill. By November 29 she was in the hospital, and her condition deteriorated until her death on December 3. The defense argued that Grace was unhappy about her pregnancy and had made several attempts to abort before going to Dr. Snyder. Dr. Snyder said that she was already suffering from fever and septicemia when she arrived at his office, and that he treated her only briefly. Grace had made a dying declaration, written up by an attorney and signed by her, indicating that Dr. Snyder had performed an abortion on her. However, her father was called as a defense witness, and he said that Grace recanted her statement before her death. Other witnesses said that Grace had a cough for several days before her visit to Dr. Snyder. The autopsy had found evidence of recent pregnancy and a puncture in Grace's uterus. Dr. Snyder was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to ten years at hard labor. His conviction was overturned on appeal. He was also charged with murder in the 1918 abortion death of Mrs. Frank Gagne of East Dubuque, Illinois.

Ann E. Roberts, 25 years old, submitted to an abortion November 29, 1878 in Saint Louis, Missouri. She died of peritonitis on December 3. She was attended to by William Stapp and Stephen L. Metcalf, neither of whom was a doctor. Before her death, Ann identified Stapp as her abortionist. Metcalf was arrested as an accessory. Somebody -- possibly Dr. Hugo Auler (sp?), who is listed as the attending physician on the death register of the City of Saint Louis -- made out a falsified death certificate and attempted to make burial arrangements, but the coroner was tipped off and convened a jury.

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