Saturday, January 30, 2016

Two Fatal Examples of Common Criminal Abortions

Research by both Planned Parenthood and scholar Nancy Howell Lee into pre-legalization abortion practice found that most abortion-minded women availed themselves of the services of physicians. The second most common kind of illegal abortionist, Lee found in her probing, was a non-physician with medical training such as a nurse, midwife, or dentist. Today's anniversaries provide common examples.

In late January of 1904, Estella "Stella" Murgatroyd lay ailing at the home of her parents just outside Jacksonville, Illinois. Her father, F. E. Murgatroyd, said that Stella had left home on the afternoon of Thursday, January 21, and had returned home at around 5 p.m. She began to develop a fever the next day at around noon. After that she began to get chills and seemed seriously ill. Mr. M had asked several times if he could summon a doctor for her, but she refused. Finally he'd summoned Dr. J. A. Day without Stella's consent. He consulted with Dr. Frank P. Norburg and Dr. F. J. Pitner. The two men were suspicious so they questioned Stella pointedly. She made a declaration just before her death on January 30, witnessed by Frank P. Norburg and Dr. Day:

"I, Miss Estella Murgatroyd, a single (unmarried) lady, 27 years of age, do hereby, and in the presence of witnesses, solemnly declare that I was [pregnant by John Pate] and on Jan. 2, 1904, about 2:30 o/clock p.m., Dr. W. C. Manley operated upon me at his office in Jacksonville. I furthermore declare that upon the morning of Jan. 24, 1904, Dr. J. A. Day was called to attend me and he afterwards on the same day called and consulted with Dr. L. P. Norburg over my condition. I declare furthermore that Dr. L. P. Lorburg and J. A. Day had no association whatever in the operation." The three doctors who cared for Stella signed a death certificate giving her cause of death as "septic endocarditis and peritonitis." The post-mortem examination verified the cause of death as abortion complications.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, abortion practice thrived in Chicago, with midwives and doctors placing thinly-veiled ads for abortions in newspapers. On January 30, 1912, 21-year-old Jeanette Mebzarek died in Chicago from an abortion perpetrated by nurse/midwife Anna Chezanowaki that same day. Chezanowaki was indicted by a Grand Jury on February 15, but the case never went to trial.

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