Wednesday, October 28, 2020

October 28: Sarah Jane's "Interesting Condition"

Sarah Jane and her Family

Fifteen-year-old Sarah Jane Beaver lived with her mother, Mrs. Sarah Beaver Spencer, and her two brothers, Andrew and William, on a farm owned by Shepherd Cox in Ursa Township, near Quincy, Indiana.

Sarah Jane and her brothers were the children of their mother's first marriage, prior to the Civil War. Sarah Jane's father was a soldier who died at Vicksburg. The family went north after the war. They were poor and illiterate.

What to Do About Sarah's "Interesting Condition"

In April of 1876, Mrs. Spencer sent Sarah Jane and one of her brothers into town for some medicine. The two parted ways in town, and the boy was unable to find Jane. He went home to his mother alone. Though there were sightings of her with Cox in Texas, Sarah Jane remained at large until late July.

About four weeks after her return, Mrs. Spencer "discovered that the daughter was in an interesting condition".

Oil of Tansy Found

Sarah Jane named Cox, who was there during the conversation, as the responsible party. Shortly after this conversation, Mrs. Spencer said, she discovered a bottle with a few drops of oil of tansy -- a popular abortifacient -- in it. When confronted, Cox reportedly admitted that he had bought it for Sarah Jane.

A Mother's Objection

Shortly after this confrontation, Cox reportedly came to the house indicating that he had two tickets to the Centellian, and he wanted to take Sarah Jane with him so that he could "take her to a doctor who would make things all right". Mrs. Spencer said that she objected to the plan. Sarah Jane did not go with Cox to the Centellial.

A Mysterious Parcel

On about Tuesday, October 17, Mrs. Spencer said, Cox came to the house with something rolled up in a small parcel. Mrs. Spencer said that she went outside to do chores for about 20 minutes, and that when she returned she found her daughter with a broom in her hands and a flushed face. She denied that Cox had said anything to offend her. She was taken sick that night, and the next night expelled her dead baby.

Condition Grave

Mrs. Spencer said she sent for Dr. Duncan, who could not come until the next Wednesday, October 25. Duncan said that Sarah Jane had not miscarried but had undergone an abortion caused by instruments of some sort, used with force. Mrs. Spencer was able to show the fetus to Duncan. It was about three and a half months old.

When Cox came to the house, Mrs. Spencer told him that he had killed her daughter. Cox pointed out that Sarah Jane wasn't dead, and said he expected her to survive her illness.

Dr. Duncan continued to provide care to Sarah Jane, at first expecting her to recover, but her condition deteriorated. He asked her repeatedly to tell him who had gotten her pregnant and who had injured her. She made a statement to him that was not admissible in court because she didn't then believe she was dying.

Deathbed Statements

On the evening of Friday, October 27, Sarah Jane called her brothers to her bedside, told them she was dying, and asked their forgiveness.

She then spoke again to Dr. Duncan, telling him that she knew she was dying. He asked her again who had injured her. Mrs. Spencer was there, telling Sarah Jane to tell Dr. Duncan who had done the deed, but shaking her head all the while as if to warn Sarah Jane not to speak. Sarah Jane told Dr. Duncan, "I did it." After her mother left the room, Duncan again asked Sarah Jane to name the guilty party.
Dr. Duncan: Who did it?
Sarah Jane: I did.
Dr. Duncan: But who helped you?
Sarah Jane: My God, I have done wrong.
Dr. Duncan: Tell me who helped you?
Sarah Jane: I did.
Dr. Duncan: You could not have done it alone. Who helped you?
Sarah Jane: He did it, with instruments.
Sarah Jane died the following morning.

Covering Up

On Sunday, Cox came to the house, crying and lamenting Sarah Jane's death. Mrs. Spencer said Cox told her to keep quiet about the death, since if she said anything about it she would get into trouble. He pointed out that she had no money, but he had money and would help the family and pay the doctor's bills.

Dr. Duncan corroborated that Cox promised to pay the $56 medical bill, although he quibbled about the price.

Andrew and William corroborated their mother's testimony about Sarah Jane's April disappearance, her return, seeing Cox at the house the night before Sarah Jane took ill, and his visiting twice during her illness. The boys also testified that they'd heard Cox say he'd help with the medical bills. They also testified to Sarah Jane's deathbed plea for their forgiveness.

Indictment, Trial, and Acquittal

Cox was indicted for murder in December, 1876. He fled to avoid prosecution. Eventually his attorney negotiated a deal for him to return for the trial but remain free on bail of $3,000. He was also able to negotiate a change of venue, so that the trial took place in Hancock County.

During the trial, several witnesses placed Cox at a distance from the farm on October 17 -- the day the abortion allegedly was performed.

Dr. Parks, another area physician, testified that Mrs. Spencer had showed him a catheter and a probe asking if they could be used to cause an abortion and lamenting that her daughter was pregnant. Parks told Mrs. Spencer that the instruments would not produce an abortion. Afterward, he testified, he saw the instruments in the possession of Dr. Springer. Springer said he'd bought them from Mrs. Spencer.

Another witness, Mrs. Arnez, stated that while she and Mrs. Spencer were in jail together, Mrs. Spencer had told her that Shep Cox had nothing to do with her daughter's death.

It took the jury a full day of sparring to come back with a verdict of not guilty.

October 28: Lack of Monitoring Leave Haitian Immigrant Dead

On October 9, 1993, 25-year-old Haitian guest worker Giselene Lafontant underwent an abortion by Dr. Irwin Scher at his Gynecare in Monsey, New York. The abortion 9 or 10 week abortion was started at 10:59 AM and completed at 11:05.

Giseline was brought to the recovery room but no pulse oximeter was used to monitor her pulse and blood oxygen. Thirteen minutes later a nurse tried to awaken Giseline and found her unresponsive. Then her faint heartbeat stopped. 

The staff started resuscitation and were able to get Giseline's heart started again after about two minutes. She was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital and placed on a respirator. Efforts to save her life failed; Giselene died on October 28, leaving behind a two-year-old son. Her family took her body to her native Haiti for burial.

Watch the YouTube video.

Newly added sources:

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

October 27: An Heiress Trusts the Wrong Men

At 11 PM on October 17, 1947, Dr. Paul Singer, a Park Avenue gynecologist, called police and reported that a woman had come to his office suffering from an incomplete abortion. She reportedly had staggered in, "slumped over with her head down on her chest." Singer said she lapsed into a coma while he was beginning his examination.

He said that he had taken 22-year-old Jane Ward, heir to the Drake Bakeries fortune, to Park East Hospital, "almost pulseless -- lifeless -- she was almost dead." 

Dr. Oswald Glasberg, a plastic surgeon, had helped him to perform emergency surgery. Singer had to remove 1.5 quarts of blood and three parts of a 5-month fetus from Jane's abdomen and the body of Jane's ruptured uterus. Her bowel had also been injured, but Jane's condition was so fragile that Singer decided to close Jane up and hope for the best with transfusions and antibiotics.

Jane died on October 27, and the autopsy confirmed the cause of death as criminal abortion. What's more, Singer had left more fetal parts inside Jane's body.

After the death, Singer and Glasberg were arrested and released on bail. The baby's father, Eduardo Schneidewind, a trade promotion executive for a South American government, was questioned as a material witness but was never indicted. He said that he had arranged the abortion through Alejandro Ovalle, who was posing as a doctor, paying $2,000. Ovalle then gave Glasberg $900, and Glasberg gave $500 to Singer.

Ovalle was sentenced to one year after pleading guilty as an accessory, having profited from abortion referrals.

Singer's first trial ended in a mistrial when one juror fainted during testimony regarding Jane's injuries. A second trial ended with a hung jury. Singer and Glasberg were eventually convicted of manslaughter in Jane's death, and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison. The judge, Francis L. Valente, said that Jane had been subjected to "surgical mayhem," and that Singer and Glasberg were "completely devoid of human feeling and decency."

Glasberg was never sentenced because six hours after the verdict on June 14, 1948, he committed suicide in his cell, having poisoned himself. Singer appealed his conviction, which was upheld.

As for Eduardo Schneidewind, not only was he not prosecuted, as far as I can determine he wasn't even deported.

During the 1940s, while abortion was still illegal, there was a massive drop in maternal mortality from abortion. The death toll fell from 1,407 in 1940, to 744 in 1945, to 263 in 1950. Most researches attribute this plunge to the development of blood transfusion techniques and the introduction of antibiotics. Learn more here.

Watch the YouTube video covering how much additional information I've found this year.

October 27: The Second of Over a Dozen Deaths

Sixteen-year-old Natalie Meyers was brought to San Vicente Hospital in Los Angeles by her mother for a safe and legal abortion on October 21, 1972. Milton Gotlib injected saline into Natalie's uterus on the 21st.

On October 22, Natalie expelled the dead baby but retained the placenta. She had trouble breathing and suffered abdominal pain, so San Vicente staff transferred Natalie to County-USC Medical Center at around 10:45 PM.

Natalie was in shock when she arrived at County-USC. She underwent a D&C there, but remained in shock from infection in her uterus. On October 26, a hysterectomy was performed to try to control the infection, to no avail. Natalie was pronounced dead at 9:35AM on October 27.

The autopsy found most of Natalie's internal organs swollen and hemorrhagic. Death was attributed to hyaline membrane disease brought on by the abortion.

Natalie is one of many women to die at one of Edward Allred's facilities. Others known to have died after abortion at Allred's facilities include: Denise Holmes in 1970, Patricia Chacon and Mary Pena in 1984, Josefina Garcia in 1985, Lanice Dorsey in 1986, Joyce Ortenzio and Tami Suematsu in 1988, Deanna Bell and Susan Levy in 1992, Christina Mora in 1994, Nakia Jorden in 1998, Maria Leho in 1999, Kimberly Neil and Maria Rodriguez in 2000, and Chanelle Bryant in 2004.

Newly added source: "Inquest Ordered in L.A. Abortion Death," Los Angeles Times, November 16, 1972

Sunday, October 25, 2020

October 25: A Midwife's Fatal Work in Chicago

On October 25, 1922, 24-year-old homemaker Lillian Hulbert died at Chicago's St. Anne's Hospital from complications of a criminal abortion performed on her there that day. The coroner identified a Mrs. M.C. Anderson as responsible for Lillian's death. Anderson's profession is given as nurse or midwife on the Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

October 24: One Negative Pregnancy Test, Two Dead Teens

Today is the anniversary of the day schoolgirl Delores Jean Smith died a lingering death. She was the second of two teens to be fatally injured on June 2 of 1979, at National Abortion Federation member Atlanta Women's Pavilion in less than an hour. To add to the tragedy, Delores's mother found out that her daughter's pregnancy test performed at the clinic had been negative.

It all began when 19-year-old Angela Scott stopped breathing in the recovery room. Nurse-anesthetist Theresa Sterns was administering brevital anesthesia to 15-year-old Delores while Dr. Jacob Adams was performing her abortion. Neither Sterns nor Adams was certified to administer this drug.

Sterns and Adams rushed off to assist in efforts to revive Angela, leaving Delores under the care of an untrained technician with her anesthesia drip still running. After staff had resuscitated Angela and loaded her into an ambulance, Sterns returned her attention to Delores, who had gone into cardio-respiratory arrest. 

Adams had accompanied Angela to the Grady Memorial Hospital, and staff at the clinic refused to release Dolores to an ambulance until the physician had returned to discharge her. This resulted in a 30-minute delay, during which the ambulance crew was unable to attend to Delores. 

Angela lingered for a week in a coma before dying on June 11. Delores never regained consciousness and eventually was admitted to a nursing home, where she died of adult respiratory distress syndrome on October 24, 1979.

Watch the YouTube video.

Newly added sources:

October 24: Rape and Death for Mentally Diabled Woman

Trusting your child to a National Abortion Federation clinic might not be as good an idea as you think. Problematic practices have plagued them since the beginning.

Nineteen-year-old Dianne Boyd, who had the mental capacity of a 14-month-old child, lived in a state institution for the mentally disabled. Though she was on an all-female ward, she was beaten and raped in July of 1981, and was later discovered to be pregnant, though officials were unable to determine if the rape had taken place inside the facility or while Dianne was on one of her many outings. The perpetrator was never identified.

When she was four months pregnant, a safe, legal abortion was arranged for Diane by her mother, with court approval, at National Abortion Federation member Reproductive Health Services in St. Louis.

Diane's mother signed a consent form. The abortion was performed October 22, 1981. Diane went into a coma and was declared dead after being removed from life support the on the 24th. 

According to suits later filed by Diane's mother, RHS staff and abortionist Robert Crist did not check for possible drug interactions before giving Diane valium and sublimaze. These drugs evidently reacted with Diane's usual medication, thorazine, causing her to stop breathing. Diane's mother said that the clinic lacked heart monitoring equipment or resuscitation equipment.

Diane was not the last woman to die after abortion by Crist. Seventeen-year-old Latatchie Veal bled to death after an abortion by Crist in 1991. Twenty-two-year-old Nichole Williams died of DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulopathy) after an abortion by Crist in 1997.

Fourteen-year-old Sandra Kaiser committed suicide after a 1984 abortion at RHS, performed without her mother's knowledge or consent.

Watch the YouTube video.

Newly added source: "Report gives little detail on events behind death of retarded woman," Kansas City Star, November 10, 1981

October 24: An Unknown Chicago Perpetrator

 On October 24, 1917, 24-year-old homemaker Stella Ahern died at her Chicago home from an abortion performed by an unknown perpetrator.

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. The fact that abortion-rights organizations claim credit for what others accomplished in public health and medical care speaks volumes about their character.

Friday, October 23, 2020

October 23: Why Did the Midwife Confess?

Emma Bickel, a 59-year-old St. Louis midwife, was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the death of 19-year-old Emily Nohavec of St. Louis. Bickel had been a midwife for 28 years, and had a reputation for "uprightness" and honesty.

Emily, age 19, was single, and had been living with her sister in St. Louis, where she worked as a clerk in her sister‘s vegetable store. On October 18, 1913, she first reported feeling ill. On Monday, October 20, a Dr. Reber was summoned to see her. He diagnosed her with septic peritonitis. The next day, her condition was critical and she was admitted to Rebekah Hospital. There, Dr. Garcia was called in for consultation. Drs. Reber and Garcia agreed that an immediate laparotomy was needed to try to save Emily‘s life.

The doctors found Emily‘s abdominal cavity inflamed. A cyst about the size of a pear surrounded her left ovary, her right ovary was surrounded by pus, and there was pus in her fallopian tubes. The doctors removed these purulent organs and inserted drainage tubes.

Dr. Reber also curetted Emily‘s uterus and packed it with iodoform gauze. Emily‘s uterus noted an ulceration about the size of a hazelnut inside the cervix. The edges of this ulceration were ragged and torn, and Reber concluded that this was caused by instrumentation. Reber also believed that swelling near where the fallopian tube entered the uterus was caused by instrumentation. Reber believed that an abortion had been performed a week to ten days before he was first called to examine Emily.

Dr. Garcia, on the other hand, agreed that Emily had recently been pregnant, and that the pregnancy had ended at about two months, but noted "there were no direct punctures or cuts, scratches, or anything of that kind in the uterus, or in the abdomen." He agreed with Dr. Reber that the sepsis was caused by an abortion, but he disagreed about the abortion having been induced. Dr. Garcia concluded that Emily might merely have miscarried.

Despite the efforts of both doctors, Emily died the following day, October 23.

That same day, Dr. Hockdoerfer performed an autopsy. He made the same findings as Drs. Garcia and Reber, except that he also found a section of placental implantation about the size of a quarter. He agreed that retained placental tissue had caused the sepsis, but did not find any signs of damage from instruments. Emily had been in good health prior to her final, fatal illness.

While Emily was hospitalized, police officer William H. Coates arrested St. Louis midwife Emma Bickel and brought her to Emily‘s bedside. Coates testified that he asked Bickel if she knew the girl, and Bickel said yes, she did know her. Coates testified that he then said, "You performed an abortion on  her, didn‘t you?" To which, he testified, Bickel replied, "Yes."

Coates took Bickel to the police station where she made a statement. Coates wrote out the statement as follows:

Department of Police, City of St. Louis.
7:16 P. M., Oct. 22, 1913.

To whom it may concern I herein state that on or about October 13th, 1913, Emily Nohavec came to my house in the evening and said she was in trouble and wanted me to help her out. I told her it was dangerous for to do a thing like that, and she said, ‘You need not be afraid,‘ that ‘I won't tell on you.‘ I then inserted a catheter into the private parts and opened her womb. She then paid me about five or seven dollars; I don‘t remember which. She came back in two days, and I again put the catheter into the womb. She left, and I never saw her until I saw her this evening at the hospital.

The above statement was made of my own free will, and not by any threats or promises or violence to me.

[Signed] Emma Bickel.
Witnesses: Off. W. H. Coates; Off. David J. O‘Connor.

When called upon to testify in court, however, Bickel denied having performed an abortion on Emily. She said that she never knew Emily until the girl came to her house, saying that she was "in trouble." Bickel said that she asked Emily, "How far along?" To which Emily replied that her period was two weeks late. Bickel said that Emily told her that she was married, and that she had taken some medicine to cause an abortion, and had also taken a box of pills. Bickel said that she told Emily, "Well, if you are only two weeks gone they ought to bring you by your next monthlies." Bickel said that she then sent Emily away.

Bickel said that about two weeks later Emily, who had still not given her name, returned, saying that she was ill, and willing to pay $7 for an examination. Bickel said that she used a speculum to examine Emily, and found her cervix open and exuding a foul discharge. Bickel testified that she told Emily to consult a doctor. She said that this took place about two weeks prior to Emily‘s death, and that she‘d not seen the girl between the examination and being brought to the hospital by Officer Coates.

Bickel testified that she had confirmed that she knew Emily, and that the girl had come to her house, but that Coates did not ask her at the hospital if she had performed an abortion. She said that she was taken to the police station, that Coates had written out the statement and told her to sign it, so she‘d complied.

Bickel said that she‘d never told Coates that she‘d inserted a catheter, that she‘d tried to discourage abortion, telling Emily "that it was a dangerous thing to do a thing like that." She said that she‘d only signed the statement because she was excited and confused and was merely doing what she was told.

Despite her protestations of innocence, Bickel was convicted of second degree manslaughter. She was sentenced to three years in prison. She unsuccessfully appealed her conviction and was paroled in June of 1915.

View the video on YouTube: The Midwife's Confession

Newly added sources:

October 23: Two Busy Doctors and Four Dead Women

On October 16, 1936, 26-year-old Katherine DiDonato, mother of two, was admitted to Roosevelt Hospital to be treated for complications of a criminal abortion. Katherine's husband, who was left to raise their two children alone, reported that the abortion had taken place three days earlier. Detectives were told that Katherine had bought pills from drug clerk Hyman Kantor, who had then recommended Dr. Aloysius Mulholland to perform an abortion. Katherine died at 2:00 AM on October 23. Both Mulholland and Kantor were arrested and charged with homicide. Mulholland had previously been charged with the 1931 abortion death of Jane Merrill. He finally went to prison in 1943 on charges related to a number of abortions not fatal to the mothers. He reportedly committed up to 10 abortions a day for which he charged $100 to $300, or a little over $1,500 to $4,600 in 2020 dollars. This meant that he could make the equivalent of  $46,000 in a single day. (Sources: "Doctor Arrested for Woman's Death," Brooklyn Times Union, October 23, 1936; "Dr. Mulholland Guilty Of Abortion Charges," Sunday News, December 19, 1943; "2 Doctors Taken In Abortion Raids," NY Daily News, April 8, 1943; Sing Sing receiving blotter)

On October 23, 1920, 19-year-old Francis Karies died at Chicago's Swedish Covenant Hospital from a criminal abortion that had been performed in Akron, Ohio, by Dr. C. W. Milliken. The coroner recommended Milliken's arrest, but there is no record if any legal action was taken against him for Francis's death. It's not likely that any action was taken, since Milliken was free to perpetrate a fatal abortion on Iva Triplet in Akron the following year.

Watch the YouTube video.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

October 22: One of Three Fatalities for a New York Physician

Margaret Buetelman died in New York's St. Vincent's hospital on October 22, 1914. She had been admitted suffering complications of an illegal abortion perpetrated on the 20th in the office of Dr. F. Waldo Whitney. Whitney, age 61, was convicted of manslaughter in her death. He was sentenced to 2 to 19 1/2 years at Sing Sing.

Whitney had already been implicated in the 1913 abortion death of Annie Brassler.

While he was in prison, Whitney was sued by Margaret's husband, John, on behalf of himself and the couple's two children.

Whitney was pardoned in 1918 and regained his medical license only to perform another fatal abortion for which he was sent to prison in 1923. I've been unable to determine the woman's name. He was released from prison again in 1926 and died from a broken leg in 1927.


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

October 20: Reckless in New York

Carole and the New York Abortion Law, 1971

Carole Schaner was 37 years old when she traveled from Ohio to Buffalo, New York, for a safe and legal abortion. to be performed by Dr, Jesse Ketchum. She had been referred by a local abortion advocacy organization, West Shore Center. Carole was divorced and caring for her four children.

Black and white headshot of a middle-aged white man with brushed-back dark hair
Dr. Jesse Ketchum
Ketchum was a former criminal abortionist from Ypsilanti, Michigan who had relocated to New York specifically to open an abortion practice. He had allowed another abortion patient, Margaret Smith, to bleed to death in his office from a hysterotomy abortion just four months earlier. A hysterotomy was like a C-section, but with the intention of allowing the fetus to die of prematurity.

Ketchum performed a vaginal hysterotomy on Carole on October 20, 1971. She was 14 weeks pregnant.

After the abortion, Carole went into shock, and was taken to a hospital. She was in shock when she arrived. Despite all efforts, Carole died before doctors could even fully assess the extent of her injuries. She left behind four children.

The autopsy found that Carole's cervix and uterus had been cut open, and an artery outside her uterus had been cut. It also noted sutures that had evidently been put in by Ketchum in an attempt to repair the damage. The sutures, however, completely closed Carole's cervix, allowing her to continue bleeding from the injured uterus and artery.

Carole was the second woman to bleed to death after an outpatient hystertomy abortion performed by Ketchum; Margaret Smith had died four months earlier.

Another former criminal abortionist, Milan Vuitch, also had kept his nose clean as a criminal abortionist, then went on to kill two legal abortion patients. Wilma Harris and Georgianna English both died under Vuitch's care. Benjamin Munson, likewise, had a clean record in his criminal abortionist then went on to kill two women in his supposedly safer legal practice -- Linda Padfield and Yvonne Mesteth.

Monday, October 19, 2020

October 18: A Criminal Abortion Ring Uncovered in New York, 1942

 On October 18, 1920, 30-year-old homemaker Alice Jolly died at Chicago's Englewood Hospital from a criminal abortion perpetrated by somebody who was never identified.

An investigation two decades later, on the other hand, was much more successful.

On October 18, 1942, 23-year-old Harriet Lichtenberg of Brooklyn died in Royal Hospital, the Bronx, from suspected criminal abortion complications. Harriet, who married a soldier two months earlier, had gone to Dr. Henry Katz, age 51, under the name Hannah Gold on October 10. Katz realized during the abortion that he had injured his patient, and called in a surgeon, who admitted Harriet to the hospital and notified the police. Her mother identified her body after her death.
Katz was identified as the abortionist and pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter in the Bronx County, New York court on June 4, 1943. In court Judge James M. Barrett admitted that Katz' case was one of the most difficult to come before him.

While investigating Harriet's death, the police uncovered an abortion ring involving 21 doctors who were arrested in hospitals, offices, and homes all over the city of New York. They were questioned regarding their involvement in sending patients to Katz, and released pending further action. 

Harriet's abortion was typical of pre-Roe abortions in that it was performed by a physician. 

During the 1940s, while abortion was still illegal, there was a massive drop in maternal mortality from abortion. The death toll fell from 1,407 in 1940, to 744 in 1945, to 263 in 1950. Most researches attribute this plunge to the development of blood transfusion techniques and the introduction of antibiotics. Learn more here.

October 19: Nellie Gets Her Wish

 Shortly before 11:00 on Saturday morning, October 20, 1877, Dr. D. C. Stillians went to the Madison Street police station in Chicago. He wanted to call the Coroner's attention to a case that he described as "crooked." He had been called in to attend to a 21-year-old unmarried woman, Nellie Ryan of Turner Junction, Illinois. Stillians said that Nellie had told him that she had miscarried, but he believed from her symptoms that she had undergone an abortion. She had died the previous evening.

Based on Dr. Stillians' information, the police went to 162 Sangamon Street, a tenement house where K. K. Forrest lived and rented rooms. There they found the young woman's body, lying on a soiled bed with a damp cloth over her face. Her soiled clothing was in a pillow case at the foot of the bed. 

The police questioned Forrest. He said that Nellie had come to the house three weeks earlier, accompanied by a young man who said that she was his half-sister who had been driven from her home by cruel parents. Forrest offered the room for $8 a month. Nellie moved in that evening. The young man, who identified himself as Mr. Dougherty, remained there intermittently until the following Saturday. At that time he said that he had to return to his job as a brakeman at the Northwestern Railroad.

The day after Dougherty's departure, Nellie fell ill but seemed able to look after herself. She remained ill for the entire nine days that the young man was gone. He appeared ill himself upon his return, saying that he'd been down with a severe bronchial infection. He brought Dr. Emelie Spork to attend to Nellie.

Dr. Spork didn't remain in Nellie's room for long, though she did stop to speak to Mrs. Forrest, who reportedly had known Spork for quite a while without knowing that she was a doctor until she came to tend Nellie.

Dr. Spork returned daily to care for Nellie, whose condition continued to deteriorate. On Friday, October 19, she remained a longer time than usual. By 7:00 that evening Nellie's condition deteriorated to the point where Mrs. Forrest decided to call in Dr. Stillian, who was their family physician. He provided some sort of care to Nellie and left, but her condition continued to deteriorate so the Forrests called him back at 9:00. He arrived in time to be with Nellie when she died.

After gathering this information the police went looking for Dr. Spork. She wasn't at her office. It was closed, so they went to her office at 391 West Madison Street, where they finally located Spork at 4:00 that afternoon.

They searched Dr. Spork and jailed her at the station. Meanwhile they searched her office, where they found the expected homeopathic medicines. Searching in a small cupboard under a wash-bowl they found a full set of abortion instruments.

The investigation led the police to a young woman named Barbara Hahn, a friend of Nellie's from Turner Junction who was living in Chicago. Barbara said that all of the young women in the village associated with young Mr. Dougherty. Nellie, as the youngest daughter, was a special pet of her parents but nevertheless had gone to work at a young age because of the family's poverty. She had frequently told her family and friends that she'd rather die than suffer the pains of childbirth and then be bothered with caring for a child.

Barbara had visited Nellie a week before her death, spending the night with her, but hadn't known that Dougherty had arranged for Nellie's visit. The evening of October 19, Dougherty had come to Barbara and urged her to come to Nellie's bedside because she was dying. He explained that Nellie had insisted on seeking out an abortion because one of her sisters had died in childbirth. He said that they had arranged for a woman doctor to do the operation. They arrived at the Forrest residence too late; Nellie had just breathed her last. Dougherty, Barbara said, alternately cursed himself and the abortionist. Somebody sent word to Nellie's other sister and sent a telegram to her parents.

Nellie's father said that she had gone to Chicago once before to work for about a year and the family had assumed that she'd done the same again. They were shocked to learn about the pregnancy and abortion. When taken to her bedside, he'd reportedly uncovered her face then fainted dead away.

A reporter went to the police station and spoke to Spork. She said that the previous Monday she had arrived at her office to find that someone had left a note with her brother telling her to go to 162 North Sangamon Street. She had gone there and found Nellie cold and clammy, sitting in a rocking chair. She had ordered Nellie to bed and, she said, concluded from Nellie's complaint of pains in her chest that she was suffering from pleurisy. Dr. Spork then said that she'd ordered porous plasters infused with Pond's Extract and a Norwegian remedy called "Green Ode" to be placed on the young woman's chest. She said that on Wednesday Nellie had complained of severe pain in her bowels. Dr. Spork said that she administered the homeopathic medicines aconite [a toxic plant used medicinally in herbal medicines], bryonia alba [a homeopathic remedy for digestive troubles], and cantarides [a chemical derived from beetles and used as an aphrodisiac]. She said that she did suspect that Nellie was pregnant but that Nellie had denied this. 

The Coroner's Inquest found that Nellie had been about three months into her pregnancy. They found no marks of instrumentation but a lot of inflammation and gangrene of the womb. They concluded that Nellie's death had been caused by an abortion. Lacking evidence that Dr. Spork had actually perpetrated the abortion, the authorities released her but instituted a renewed search for Dougherty.

Note that contrary to abortion-rights dogma, Nellie evidently found a medical professional of the same caliber she'd have gone to for any obstetric issue. Spork was, in fact, a graduate of the Central Institute of Stockholm, which specialized in the treatment of women and children. After coming to the United States she got a degree from Hahnermann Medical College. Thus Nellie didn't just grab a dirty knitting needle and impale herself. Prior to legalization, women were going to doctors for perhaps 90% of abortions, and going to midwives or nurses or other trained medical professionals about another 8% of the time. The remaining abortions were often done by laypersons who were trained, supplied, and backed up by medical professionals. The stereotypical "coat hanger abortion" is a PR ploy and not a reflection of reality.

Newly added sources:
  • "Double Murder," Chicago Tribune, October 21, 1877
  • "The Nellie Ryan Murder," Chicago Tribune, October 23, 1877

October 19: A Deadly Quack and Other Tragedies

 One of Many Hachamovitch's Dead, New York, 1990

Nineteen-year-old Christina Goesswein ("Patient A" in medical board documents) was almost 23 weeks pregnant when she went to the office of Dr. Moshe Hachamovitch on October 17, 1990. The first part of the three-day abortion procedure was started that day. She was sent home and told to return the following day to have her cervix dilated even further for the abortion, which would take place on the 19th.

She came back on the 18th and had more laminaria inserted then returned home. That evening, her boyfriend called the doctor's office because Christina was having cramping. He was told to give her pain medicine. Christina's boyfriend called again several hours later because he felt that she was running a fever, but Christina told Dr. Hachamovitch's employee who was taking call that evening that she was okay.

Early in the morning of the 19th, the boyfriend called the employee again because Christina was experiencing heavy bleeding, cramping and vomiting. Christina stated that she felt that she was in labor. The employee instructed Christina to go to Hachamovitch's office where she and the doctor would meet her.

They all met at the office some time between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. After arriving at there, Christina lost control of her bowels. Hachamovitch then delivered her 24-week fetus in one piece.

Because Christina was not recovering as she should have, Dr. Hachamovitch decided to admit her to an area hospital, but before this could be done, Christina quit breathing and her heart stopped. Somebody called 911 at about 4:20 a.m., and Dr. Hachamovitch began CPR. Christina was taken to a Bronx hospital where she was pronounced dead at 6:11 a.m. on October 19, due to an amniotic fluid embolism.

Hachamovitch's license was suspended over his false documentation regarding administration of oxygen, and the Christina's blood loss. The medical board also found a plethora of faults in Hachamovitch's treatment of his patient.

Christina wasn't the only patient to lose her life due to Hachamovitch's unwillingness or inability to manage his practice. Two other patients, Tanya Williamson in 1996 and Luz Rodriguez in 1986, had died of malpractice under his care. Three patients died after abortions in clinics he owned and managed elsewhere -- Lisa Bardsley and Lou Ann Herron in Arizona and Jammie Garcia in Texas.

A Naturopath in Texas, 1954

Dr. Sylvia Redman
Dr. Sylvia Redman (pictured), a 57-year-old woman who had a license to practice naturopathy in Texas, signed a written confession on October 20, 1954 regarding the death of Betty Ledel the previous day. Redman' confession said that Betty came to her on October 8, saying that she thought she was pregnant. Betty asked her "if I could help her get rid of the baby. I told her the danger of everything and she said she was not afraid. I told her I would rather her to go somewhere else and have the baby stopped in twenty four hours, because my work is slow. I do it by shooting a little air up into the womb. (uterus) By going through the cervix into the uterus, where the embryo is carried. She told me she wanted me to do it." Redman complied, repeating the process daily. 

On October 19, Betty again went to Redman. Her husband and one of their two young children waited outside in the car. Redman took Betty upstairs, "laid her on a table used for females," and inserted a canula into Betty's uterus. She pushed five syringes full of air into Betty's uterus and asked Betty if she could feel it. Betty said that she could, a little. "And she looked up at me and said I feel choky, and then she passed out." Redman also noticed that Betty was bleeding vaginally.

Redman said, "I used artificial respiration. I picked her up in my arms and laid her on the floor. And I slung water at her to try to revive her, and then I had a lady downstairs to call an ambulance. The ambulance came and got her and took her to Harris Hospital where Betty was pronounced dead on arrival. 

Redman threw away the instruments but police quickly found them and got a confession. An autopsy verified that Betty had indeed been pregnant, and blamed her death on the introduction of air into her uterus to produce abortion. The six or seven week old embryo was intact and undamaged. Betty's blood vessels had air in them, and one of her lungs had collapsed. The examiner concluded that she had died from an air embolism.

Redman seemed to have a mixed reputation in the area. She was charged with practicing medicine without a license in October of 1945, but by 1947 was in good standing, with the newspaper reporting that she had returned after a study of endo-nasal and aural therapy at Philadelphia College of Neuropathy and Naturopathy.

Redman's jury deliberated slightly under two and a half hours before finding her guilty of murder by abortion. She was sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary for four years, a far cry from the death penalty she could potentially have faced. Her appeal was denied and she was paroled in May of 1957.

Watch The Many Dead of Moshe Hachamovitch on YouTube.

(See newly added sources below.)

Two Chicago Deaths in the Early 20th Century

Russian immigrant Anna Kelson, age 20, died at her Chicago home on North Talman Avenue on October 19, 1918. Dr. Virginia Johnson, who had been called in to care for Anna, supposedly for influenzal pneumonia. She found a nurse attending to Anna but did not get the nurse's name. Dr. Johnson determined that Anna had died from an abortion and reported the death to the police.

Pelagia Usoraki, age 32, died on October 19, 1910 in a Chicago residence after an abortion perpetrated in Chicago by  Rosalie Tomajoski on October 13. Tamojosky, who was indicted by a grand jury for murder in Pelagia's death, is identified in the Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database as an "abortion provider."


New Sources on Betty Ledel's death and Dr. Sylvia Redman:

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

October 13: Mostly the Work of Doctors

Safe and Legal in New York, 1971

"Tammy" traveled from Ohio to New York to undergo an abortion under New York's liberal abortion law. Her abortion was performed on September 25, 1971. She was 33 years old. After the abortion, Tammy developed an infection which finally ended her life on October 13, 1971.

A Lay Abortionist in Boston, 1939

A black-and-white headshot of a young white woman, her hair pulled back and wearing a military-style hat
Barbara Hanson

On October 13, 1939, the body of Barbara Hanson, age 21, was found in a Boston motel room. Barbara had checked into the motel herself under an assumed name the previous day. At about 2:00 a.m., other guests at the motel complained to management about loud noises, described in some accounts as screams, coming from the room.

A hotel employee detective went to the room and found Barbara dead on the bed. She was tentatively identified by the I.D. found in her purse. The identification was verified by her uncle.

Police found fingerprints on four empty cocktail glasses and an open bottle on the bedside table.

Four men were in the room with her: I. Bernard Gannon, age 23, James Carter, 27, Raymond Fermino, 26, and George F. Norton, 26. Reports say that one of them admitted on the spot to having perpetrated an abortion on Barbara, but the reports to not specify which one.

An autopsy showed that immediately after the abortion, Barbara had suffered a fatal heart attack. Barbara's father, Frederick S. Hanson, a Penn State building engineer, went to New York to claim her body. When questioned by reporters, he said, "I just received worth that Barbara had passed on. I don't know any of the circumstances."

After their trial started, James Carter and George F. Norton pleaded guilty to performing the abortion that killed Barbara, and each received a 5-7 year sentence. Bernard Gannon, who was the baby's father, and Raymond Fermino each pleaded guilty as accessories and were sentenced to one year.

Self-Induced in Chicago, 1908

Nineteen-year-old "Cathy," identified in the source as "Miss R," used a catheter on herself to abort a six-week pregnancy. She went to a doctor for aftercare, and the physician packed her uterus with gauze.

Two days later, on September 25, 1908, she was admitted to Cook County Hospital. Her condition wasn't alarming. Her pulse of 90, respirations of 24, and temperature of 99.6 indicated a mild infection. Her uterus was enlarged and tender. Upon examination, a doctor was able to put two fingers through Cathy's dilated cervix, and noted "blood clots" in the uterus.

The next day, Cathy's condition was very much the same, if not slightly improved with a pulse of 80, respirations of 28, and temperature of 99.4. She was subjected to a uterine curettage, followed by irrigation and packing.

All the surgery did was make things worse. The localized infection had, through the scraping of the uterus, become a generalized case of toxemia. Cathy's condition deteriorated over the course of 17 days until her death on October 13.

A Philadelphia Physician, 1838

A Philadelphia boarding house owner named Mary Kingsley reported that on October 4, 1838, a Dr. Henry Chauncey appeared at breakfast time. "He made me make some tea of a powder that looked like black pepper." The tea was given to 21-year-old Elizabeth "Eliza" Sowers, who until the previous May had been a worker at a paper mill in Manayunk, NJ. She'd been brought to the boarding house -- one of unsavory reputation -- by Chauncey the day before.

At around 2:00 the following morning, Eliza called to the boarding house owner. "She said she was very bad. She said, 'I won't take any more of that doctor's medicine; it will kill me.'"

Chauncey returned later, performing some sort of procedure upon Eliza with something "which shined and looked like a knitting needle," according to the owner of the boarding house. Chauncey said that Eliza was "the most difficult person he had ever operated on. Said the medicine he gave her was too powerful, and had acted too quick."

Eliza died on October 13 from the ministrations of Dr. Chauncey. Chauncey and Nixon arrived at Eliza's family home that evening to say that she had died of "impacted bowels." A second doctor, William Armstrong, had signed a death certificate to that effect.

Eliza's brother was having none of it. He demanded that Eliza's body be exhumed and examined, revealing the real cause of her death.

The three men went to trial using a defense based on attacking the reputations of Eliza, her family, her fiancé, and the woman who ran the boarding house. Armstrong and Nixon won acquittals, and Chancey was convicted only of malpractice, not the double murder of Eliza and her unborn baby.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

L'Echelle Head - Additional Information Added

Detroit Police were called to a private residence on October 11, 2000 to investigate the report of an unresponsive 21-year-old woman shortly after 6 p.m. The young woman was L'Echelle R. Head, AKA L'Echelle Hall. She was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 7:45 p.m. Preliminary reports were that she likely suffered some sort of embolism after an abortion performed at Dayton Women's Health Services.

The clinic had been caught operating without a license in 1999. It was inspected on October 27, 1999, to see if a license should be granted. Inspectors found rusty instruments, improperly-marked medications, and a failure to follow sterile technique. The clinic administrators were told they'd have to correct the problems to get a license. The clinic got the license after getting a waiver regarding follow-up care for patients.

A December, 2000 inspection found that a nurse had pre-signed blank post-operative sections on patient records -- a fact that was discovered only because the patients hadn't actually shown up for their abortions at all.

L'Echelle's obituary indicates that she left behind a daughter, her parents, and three sisters.


October 11: Officials' Decision Ultimately Fatal

A Bad Decision by State Officials

Dayton Women's Health Services had been caught operating without a license in 1999. It was inspected on October 27, 1999, to see if a license should be granted. Inspectors found rusty instruments, improperly-marked medications, and a failure to follow sterile technique. The clinic administrators were told they'd have to correct the problems to get a license. The clinic got the license after getting a waiver regarding follow-up care for patients.

The authorities evidently made a bad choice in trusting so shoddy a place to provide care to patients. Detroit Police were called to a private residence on October 11, 2000 to investigate the report of an unresponsive 21-year-old woman shortly after 6 p.m. The young woman was L'Echelle Head. She was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 7:45 p.m. Preliminary reports were that she likely suffered some sort of embolism after an abortion performed at Dayton Women's Health Services. 

Scanty Information from 1981

I know less about the death of 17-year-old Sharonda Rowe. Life Dynamics lists her on their "Blackmun Wall of women who died from safe and legal abortions. According to LDI, Sharonda had an abortion done in a doctor's office in Washington, DC on October 11, 1981. She suffered lacerations in her vagina and uterus, causing a massive, fatal air embolism. 

An Infamous Montana Abortionist

Portrait of abortionist Gertrude Pitkanen
Gertrude Pitkanen
The mantra among abortion-rights organizations is that before legalization, the world of abortion was a world of rusty coat hangers and untrained quacks. Frankly, it's an insult to the abortion-minded women of yesteryear to assume that they were all so mentally unhinged or utterly mindless. The vast majority sought out professionals of the same caliber they'd go to for any other cause. 

On October 11, 1936, 18-year-old Margie Fraser died in a hospital in her hometown of Helena, Montana from complications of a botched abortion she had sought from Gertrude Pitkanen (pictured), who had completed nurse's training at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and became one of the first surgical nurses at St. James Community Hospital, Butte, Montana. There, she assisted her husband, Dr. Gustavus Pitkanen. Dr. Pitkanen was an abortionist until he was jailed for sedition in 1917, whereupon Gertrude, trained by him and well-versed in surgical procedures, took over the locally-tolerated abortion business.

Two Early 20th Century Chicago Deaths

On October 11, 1913, 28-year-old Frances Odochowski, a married woman, died in Chicago at the scene of an abortion perpetrated that day by Dr. Arthur L. Blunt. Bunt was arrested and held by the Coroner on November 7, and brought before a Grand Jury, but the case never went to trial. 

On October 11, 1926, Jeanette Jarrett, a 28-year-old Black woman, died from complications of a criminal abortion performed on her that day. A Black doctor, Roy Shell, was held by the coroner on October 29. On November 1, he was indicted for felony murder.

Abortion-rights groups dismiss post-legalization deaths with a flippant assertion that "all surgery has risks," but do not accept that the same was true prior to legalization. Surgery was riskier then, so abortion was riskier as well. As the 20th century progressed, all maternal mortality, including abortion mortality, fell as medical care improved. Antibiotics and blood transfusions -- along with overall better health due to increasing prosperity -- deserve the credit for falling mortality, which was hardly caused retroactively by the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling striking down all the nation's abortion laws.

Chart of US maternal mortality rates in the 20th century. The rate plumets from over 800 per 100,000 live births in 1900 to fewer than 100 in 1960 -- 13 years before the Roe vs Wade abortion decision that abortion-rights groups credit with reducing maternal mortality in general, and abortion mortality in particular.
US maternal mortality rates, with Roe vs. Wade marked with vertical line.
No doubt there was quackery prior to legalization -- but such quackery persists today. Removing the threat of jail for any but the most egregious behavior does not provide motivation to run a tight ship. Three erstwhile criminal abortionists that I know of -- Benjamin Munson, Milan Vuitch, and Jesse Ketchum -- didn't lose a single abortion patient until after legalization made them less fearful of repercussions and thus far more careless. Each went on to kill two legal abortion patients, not out of simple surgical complications, but due to appalling quackery.

If abortion-rights groups were as concerned with women's lives as they are about the Holy Grail of "access," women could only benefit. If only half of the effort put into investigating and trying to shut down prolife pregnancy help centers were put into investigating and trying to shut down seedy abortion mills, only abortionists would suffer. Women would benefit. Whose side are they really on?

It's time we got real about how little is different between illegal and legal abortion practice: the main difference is how much risk of being shut down or sent to prison the safe-and-legal abortionist faces. 

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.

external image MaternalMortality.gif 

Friday, October 09, 2020

October 9: Chicago Firefighter Husband Left to Raise Four Children

Earnest Projahn answered the questions put to him by the Cook County deputy coroner during the inquest into the death of his 33-year-old wife, Emily. The Projahns had four living children; two others had died.

In August and September of 1916 Emily's period did not come. She told her husband of the pregnancy and her plans to get an abortion, since she didn't think they could afford another child on her husband's salary as a firefighter. Ernest testified that he opposed the abortion and "spoke against it all the time." Though he may have made this statement in the hopes of avoiding further legal trouble for his role in the abortion, his remark, "That's the way the wife figured it," suggests that he followed her lead in this matter, however reluctantly. Mr. Projahn eventually came around to his wife's way of thinking and performed the male role of locating the abortionist and accompanying her to the doctor's office on a Friday night in September of 1916.

Emily visited a doctor whom her husband had seen previously, Dr. Clarence W. Mercereau at 4954 Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago. Dr. Mercereau agreed to do the operation and told them the fee would be $10 and $2 for calling on her afterwards. They paid half the fee that night. Mr. Projahn later explained that the doctor "asked me to be quiet and not say anything more about it. I said I would." The doctor then shut the door and prepared to perform the operation. He had his patient lie in a surgical chair and used an instrument. Mrs. Projahn called the instrument a "womb opener." Her husband described it as "nickel-plated, silver-like" and "ten or twelve inches long." The doctor told her to "stay on her feet until she got sick enough to go to bed." 

When they got home that evening, Emily was bleeding. A week later she called Dr. Mercereau, who came to their home and prescribed medicine. He visited her at home twice. After three weeks of chills and fever, she called in a second doctor, who hospitalized her. While at the hospital she told an intern, "My husband and my self came to the conclusion that we had enough children and wanted something done so we would not have to support another."

Emily finally died on October 9.

Though Mercerau was held by the coroner and indicted, the case was stricken off on December 16.

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