Sunday, March 03, 2019

A Physician, Self-Induced, and Unnamed

A Chicago Physician, 1916

On February 29, 1916, Dr. Nels Meling was summoned to the home of 43-year-old homemaker Augusta Bloom in Chicago. The next day he sent her to Norwegian Deaconess Hospital. While there she made a deathbed declaration that she was suffering from the effects of an abortion perpetrated by Dr. James R. Struble at his office. On March 3, 1916, 43-year-old Augusta died from massive infection. Struble was indicted by a Grand Jury on March 21, but the case never went to trial. Two years earlier, Struble had been implicated in the abortion death of 24-year-old Frances Fergus, but that case had not gone to trial either. This was fairly typical for Chicago abortions of that era: a doctor or a midwife, often running very thinly-veiled abortion ads in newspapers, would send multiple women to the grave without losing either their license or their freedom.

Self-Induced in Pittsburgh, 1918

Nikola Wojnovich of Pittsburgh said that on Saturday, February 16, 1918, his 26-year-old wife, Mary, seemed unwell after dinner, very unstable on her feet. He helped her to bed then sent for Dr. Zabaranko, who examined her and prescribed some medication.The next day Zabaranko returned and diagnosed her with inflammation of the uterus and instructed Nikola to put an ice pack on her abdomen. On Thursday, February 21, Mary's condition was worse, and Nikola summoned Zabaranko again. When he examined her, he called an ambulance and sent her to Pittsburgh's South Side Hospital, where Dr. S. A. Beddall admitted her for treatment for “incomplete abortion and pelvic peritonitis due to self inflicted abortion at home 2 weeks ago.”

After Mary's death, at about 2:00 on the morning of Saturday, March 3, Dr. Henry Klinzing jotted a note to the coroner on a prescription pad saying that Mary, a homemaker and Croatian immigrant, had made a deathbed statement to him on March 1, saying “she inserted a stick of wood into the uterus to bring on menstruation feeling she was pregnant. From this she developed a pelvic peritonitis and subsequently a septic pneumonia from which she died.”

Mary's abortion is in keeping with turn-of-the-20th-century Pittsburgh abortion deaths, which heavily inclined toward self-induced, in contrast to Chicago abortions of the same period, which were predominately perpetrated by doctors and midwives.

Chicago, 1928, Dying Woman Shields Abortionist

Vivian Willis, a 21-year-old clerk, died at Chicago's Lakeside Hospital on March 3, 1928 from an infection doctors attributed to a criminal abortion. Vivian refused to name an abortionist.

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