Thursday, April 13, 2017

Two Different Stellas, Two Different Decades

Safe and Legal in California, 1968

Stella Saenz, age 42, was one of the growing number of safe-and-legal abortion deaths that were to soon almost completely replace illegal abortion deaths in the United States over the coming decade.

Stella had arranged for a legal abortion in the spring of 1968. At that time, California allowed legal abortions, but only in hospitals.

On April 11, she was admitted to Los Angeles County General Hospital with sepsis.  Doctors administered penicillin. Stella went into anaphylactic shock; neither she nor the doctors had realized that Stella was allergic to penicillin.  Doctors tried to treat both the infection and Stella's reaction to the penicillin, to no avail. She died on April 13.

The California Department of Public Health classified Stella's death as both a drug reaction death and a legal abortion death.

One of Louise Achtenberg's Many Victims

On April 13, 1909, Stella Kelly Lowery, age 28, died of septicemia at a hospital in Chicago, from an abortion that had been perpetrated around March 5. Stella, a waitress, was divorced and was identified by her maiden name in the Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database.

Louise Actenberg, age 59, sometimes identified as a doctor and sometimes as a midwife, was charged with murder by abortion by a coroner's jury. Achtenberg was also implicated in the 1907 abortion death of Dora Swan and the 1909 abortion deaths of Stella and of Florence Wright. In 1918, at the age of 69, she was arrested for performing an abortion on Miss Ruth G. Pickling,[1] but acquitted, going on to be arrested for the 1920 abortion death of Violet McCormick and the 1924 death of Madelyn Anderson. I can find no record that she was ever incarcerated, which is hardly surprising, given how hospitable Chicago has typically been to the many doctors and midwives who perpetrated abortions in the city.

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