Saturday, January 02, 2021

January 2: Several Tries Kill Baby and Mother

Summary: Charles Emerich was convicted of manslaughter in the January 2, 1879 abortion death of 19-year-old Maggie Gibbons.

Nineteen-year-old Maggie Gibbons worked at a St. Louis laundry owned by Charles P. Emerich. The two also lived together. When Maggie told him she was pregnant in December of 1877, Emerich went to Dr. Thomas F. Smith, who provided abortifacient powders which failed to produce the desired effect.  

Smith made the dubious claim that while he had provided Emerich with abortion instruments, he hadn't know what Emerich planned to use them for. It is unclear whether Smith or Emerich perpetrated the abortion on December 30.

Maggie took sick afterward and was relocated to her mother's house. Dr. W. D. Hinckley was called in to care for her. It was then that Maggie's mother learned about the abortion, though Maggie refused to name the father. 

Dr. Hinckley called in Dr. J. O'Reilly for a second opinion. Both doctors agreed that she was suffering from a severe case of peritonitis and that there was no hope for her.  Maggie languished, finally dying on January 2 of 1878. 

Emerich was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter in Maggie's death, and was sentenced to five years in prison. 

Relying on a boyfriend rather than a doctor didn't end with legalization. In 1990 a systems analyst in California let her boyfriend try to do a home abortion with a piece of aquarium tubing, resulting in her death two days prior to the appointment she had made for a safe, legal abortion. I have no idea if the boyfriend was prosecuted for the young woman's death.

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