Friday, January 10, 2020

Anniversaries and a Study in Early 20th Century Mortality

On January 10, 1907, homemaker Ellen White, a 36-year-old Irish immigrant, died of shock and hemorrhage in her Chicago home from an abortion perpetrated about a week before Christmas. A midwife named Emma Watchek was arrested in the death. Click here for more information on abortion deaths in the first decade of the 20th century.

On January 10, 1913, 31-year-old homemaker Lizzie Orenstein died at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago from septicemia caused by an abortion perpetrated by a person who was never identified.

On January 10, 1917, 23-year-old clerk Tillie Vrzal died at Chicago's Frances Willard Hospital from peritonitis because of an abortion performed by an unknown perpetrator.

It is interesting to note that in spite of abortion-advocacy claims that charity hospitals had entire wards full of criminal abortion patients with staggeringly high mortality rates, we see a different picture from contemporary accounts. Surgery, gynecology & obstetrics, Volume 26 By Franklin H. Martin Memorial Foundation, American College of Surgeons, 1918 gives us a contemporary account. Dr. Julius E. Lackner: These cases are all "abortion" cases, which by medical definitions includes both miscarriages and induced abortions.

"I reported 500 cases occurring in the service of Drs. Banga and Fninkenthal at the Michael Reese Hospital in the years 1900 to 1914. Of these 500 cases 4 died."

I have identified two criminal abortion deaths at Michael Reese Hospital during the period examined by Dr. Lackner: Lizzie Orenstein and Bessie Braun The remaining two deaths were either due to miscarriages or were induced abortion deaths that eluded the press and law enforcement.

Five hundred abortion and miscarriage cases in 15 years is about 34 a year, or roughly one admission every 11 days. That hardly an entire ward full of septic abortion cases. And the mortality rate was less than 1%. Consider that this record predates blood transfusions and antibiotics.

Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good.

In fact, due to improvements in addressing these problems, maternal mortality in general (and abortion mortality with it) fell dramatically in the 20th Century, decades before Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion across America.

For more information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.

external image MaternalMortality.gif

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