Monday, July 20, 2020

Denver in 1913, New York in 1970

A Deadly Doctor in Denver, 1913

On July 20, 1913, Mrs. Emma Chandler, age 20, died suddenly from complications of a criminal abortion perpetrated the previous day. In a deathbed statement, she named Dr. J.A. Richmond as her abortionist. Her husband, Ora, a Denver grocery clerk, notified the police immediately after Emma's death.

An investigation revealed that a friend had accompanied Emma to Richmond's practice after finishing work at the offices of a lumber company. After the abortion she was driven home. Her husband returned from work and found Emma very weak. Overnight she became more and more ill. Around noon she realized that she was dying and sent for a neighbor, who she begged to pray for her. The neighbor remained by Emma's bedside, knitting and praying.

Some time in the afternoon Emma confessed about the abortion to her husband, saying she'd arranged it because she didn't want another child, feeling that her 3-year-old son was enough. Mr. Chandler sent for a doctor who lived across the street, but there was nothing he could do for her.

Maternal Indications in New York, 1970

Barbara Riley was 23 years old when she chose abortion. She had a history of sickle cell anemia and three previous term pregnancies -- two live births and a stillborn child. She was in her first trimester of pregnancy when she underwent the abortion on July 11, 1970 at Harlem Hospital. The abortion had been recommended by hospital staff because Barbara had a history of sickle cell disease.

The abortion would probably have been recommended as beneficial to Barbara's health, under New York's old abortion law; the new law just meant that they didn't need to leally justify going ahead with it. But instead of improving, Barbara's health deteriorated. Her blood  started to break down. Nine days after the abortion, July 20, Barbara died. She was the third abortion-related death reported in New York State in the 23 days that abortion had been legal in New York. The other women I've identified as dying from sickle cell crisis triggered by an abortion are Margaret Davis and Betty Hines.

The 1970 liberalization of abortion had made New York state an abortion mecca until the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling that abortionists could legally set up shop in any state of the union. In addition to Barbara, these are the women I know of who had the dubious benefit of dying from the newfangled safe-and-legal kind of abortion in pre-Roe New York:

  • Pearl, July 12, 1970 Age: 42, St. Luke's Hospital
  • Carmen, July 19, 1970 Age: 31, Lincoln Hospital
  • "Linda", September 22, 1970 Age: 19, Unspecified New York City facility
  • Maria October 10, 1970 Age: 23, Dr. Armida Zepata
  • "Kimberly", December 23, 1970 Age: 25, Unspecified New York City facility
  • Seven additional New York City deaths about which I have no information* **


  • "Amy", January 2, 1971 Age: 35, Unspecified facility
  • "Andrea", January 20, 1971 Age: 26, Unspecified facility
  • "Roseanne", February 27, 1971 Age: 37, Unspecified facility
  • "Sandra", April 18, 1971 Age: 18, Unspecified facility***
  • "Anita", May 12, 1971 Age: 23, Unspecified facility *** ****
  • Margaret, June 16, 1971 Age: 25, Dr. Jesse Ketchum
  • Edith, June 24, 1971 Age: 29, Dr. Robert Livingston 
  • "Audrey", July 1, 1971 Age: 44, Unspecified facility
  • "Vickie", August 17, 1971 Age: 23, Unspecified facility
  • "April", August 22, 1971 Age: 17, Unspecified facility
  • "Barbara", September 23, 1971 Age: 35, Unspecified facility
  • "Becky", October 5, 1971 Age: 18, Unspecified facility
  • "Tammy", October 13, 1971 Age: 33, Unspecified facility
  • Carole, October 20, 1971 Age: 37, Dr. Jesse Ketchum
  • "Beth", December 29, 1971 Age: 23, Unspecified facility


  • "Wendy", 1972 Age: 23, Unspecified facility
  • "Colleen", March 8, 1972 Age: 21, Unspecified facility
  • "Connie", March 8, 1972 Age: 31, Unspecified facility
  • "Julie", April 16, 1972 Age: 14, Unspecified facility
  • "Robin", May 4, 1972 Age: 21, Unspecified facility
  • "Roxanne", May 13, 1972 Age: 17, Unspecified facility
  • Pamela, May 17, 1972 Age: 18, Monsey Medical Center
  • "Sara", June 18, 1972 Age: 22, Unspecified facility
  • Beverly, December 21, 1973 Age: 21, Unspecified physician in Monsey

*In the New York Daily News, November 24, 1970, New York City Health Services Administrator Gordon Chase indicated that there had been a total of 11 abortion related deaths in the city during the first four months of legalization, July through October, 1970. He indicated that only one of those abortions took place outside a hospital. In the February 7, 1971 Daily News, Chase notes a total of 12 abortion deaths in New York City for the first six months, seven of which involved outpatient abortions. This contradicts what he said earlier, when he indicated that only one of 11 deaths was outside of a hospital. In the June 30, 1971 Wellsville Daily Reporter, Chase reported a total of 15 abortion-related deaths in New York City as of February, 1971, eight of them from legal abortions and the remainder from illegal abortions.  However, he also said that there had been no abortion deaths in the four month period March - June. 

****According to the June 19, 1971 Press and Sun Bulletin, the Centers for Disease Control counted only 9 legal abortion deaths in the entire state of New York for the 11-month period of July 1, 1970 - May 31, 1971. They report seven illegal abortion deaths in the state during that period. This indicates that the CDC was severely underreporting abortion related deaths even before Roe vs. Wade


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