Tuesday, February 23, 2021

February 23: A Possibly Legal Abortion in 1906

Profile shot of a scowling elderly white man with glasses and thick, white hair cut short
Dr. George Fosberg
On February 23, 1906, 26-year-old Bessie Orme died at her home in Chicago. Dr. George Fosberg said that he had performed an abortion on her in an attempt to save her life. He had then tried to insist that she be taken to a hospital, but when the family refused, he withdrew from the case.

I've been unable to learn what objection, if any, the family had made. Bessie's mother-in-law, Charity Orme, testified at the inquest and said that she'd traveled from her home in Kokomo, Indiana, to care for Bessie while she was ill. She was the one who had given the authorities Fosberg's name when they investigated.

Dr. Frank J. Otis took over Bessie's care and was the attending physician at the time of her death. He testified, "I was summoned the day of her death. An examination showed that she was suffering from inflammation of the abdominal organs, and that an operation had been performed. I notified the health department, and when I was asked the contributory causes of death I told of the operation."

A coroner's jury was unable to determine whether or not Fosberg had been attempting to save Bessie's life when he performed the procedure, so the verdict was issued as open. 
This left Fosberg free in 1916 to be implicated in the abortion death of Pauline Hill. For reasons I've been unable to determine, that case never went to trial either.

Fosberg lost his license to practice medicine after being convicted of bank fraud. After his release from prison he opened a boarding house, where he perpetrated a fatal abortion on Geraldine Schuyler in 1944.

Watch Fosberg's Mistake on YouTube.


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