Sunday, February 20, 2022

A Lead from a Reader

One of the comments in my blog was asking for information about the death of a woman named Minnie Mitchell. I found her death certificate.

Minnie, a 26-year-old Black woman, was admitted to the general hospital in Spartanburg, South Caroline on or around February 13, 1940. She was treated by Dr. William Hendrix until February 19. She died at 2:35 the morning of February 20.

Minnie had been three months pregnant and underwent a criminal abortion on February 9, 1940. The abortion was incomplete, leading to infection and finally to fatal sepsis.

Minnie's death certificate is disturbingly incomplete. She's noted as married, but there's no information about her spouse and she has the same surname as her father. Dr. Hendrix marked that the death was due to homicide, but did not fill out any of the information in the appropriate section of the death certificate to indicate where, how, and by whom her fatal injuries were inflected.

I also can't find any news coverage of Minnie's death or any other sign that a guilty party was ever identified and held accountable.

Friday, February 18, 2022

February 18: Secret Abortion Ends 13-year-old's Life

A headshot of a young, smiling Black girl wearing a graduation cap
"They told me I had to get down to St. Luke's right away, that Dawn was at that hospital fighting for her life."

It's the call every parent dreads. Ruth was no exception. Her 13-year-old daughter, Dawn, was active in the church where both her parents were ministers. The family sang Gospel songs together. Dawn was a dream child -- the kid who did her homework without being told, who liked to surprise her mother by cleaning the house. She was what's known in the vernacular as "a good girl." Her parents never expected any trouble about Dawn.

"I was going, 'How can she be fighting for her life? She left for school this morning, looking healthy, never been sick.'"

What Ruth didn't know was that Dawn had slipped off her pedestal, had engaged in a dalliance with a 15-year-old Romeo. And when she learned that she was pregnant, she knew her parents would be crushed. She went to a teacher for advice. The teacher and a counselor arranged to take care of the whole mess so that Dawn's parents would never have to know. The boyfriend borrowed a credit card from a relative to pay for the risky, expensive, second-trimester abortion.

The counselor at Eastern Women's Center (a National Abortion Federationmember) had seen how frightened Dawn was that January day in 1985, and had marked on her chart that she should be treated with "tender loving care." But abortionist Allen Kline (pictured) had his own ideas about what constituted "tender loving care." According to the suit filed by Dawn's parents, anesthetist Robert Augente didn't administer enough anesthesia to get the frightened child through the entire procedure. About halfway through, she began to cough, vomit, and choke. Abortionist Kline put a breathing tube in Dawn's throat, put her aside, and left her unattended to lapse into a coma. Dawn was eventually rushed to the hospital, where it finally occurred to somebody to do the obvious: call Dawn's mother.

"While I was there at the hospital -- they were doing tests -- I had to keep my hand pressed over my mouth to keep from screaming in horror. I kept going, 'This is all a bad dream. I am going to wake up and this will not have happened.'"

Day after day Dawn's family gathered at her bedside, talking to her, playing tapes of the family singing together, trying to lure her back from the brink of death -- all to no avail. Dawn died three weeks after her abortion, on February 11, without ever having regained consciousness.

The family sued and won, but as the New York Post headline pointed out, "$1.2M Won't Bring Her Back." The story featured a photo of Dawn at her junior high graduation, in cap and gown, gazing out smiling at a future she would never have.

Postscript: Abortionist Alan Kline died in February of 2021 after living a rich, full life for another 36 years after his inaction killed a 13-year-old girl. Dawn would have been nearly 50 years old had she survived.

"$1.225 M award: Teen died after abortion," NY Daily News, December 11, 1990

Watch "This is all a bad dream" on YouTube.


Tuesday, February 01, 2022

February need to find exact date


While looking for more information on abortion anniversaries I stumbled across several other abortion deaths. This one involved a hospital that did clandestine abortions.

Dr. W. Eugene Shelton was charged with murder in the February, 1927 abortion death of 23-year-old Mrs. Stella Lickerman and five other women whose names I've been unable to determine.

Shelton wasn't arrested until October of 1928.

Shelton ran two "hospital flats" in Chicago, one on 6343 Halsted St. and one at 6341 Halsted St.

Two nurses were also arrested and charged with conspiracy. Nurse Sylvia Atcherly was arrested at the address while nurse Ophelia Roper Griffith worked at the 6341 address.

Two other women were arrested and released after three days of questioning: Mrs. Gertrude Vollert, who was a cook at one of the flats, and Pearl Hawkins, a maid. Mrs. Vollert had been arrested because, clad in her white cook's uniform, she had been mistaken at first for another nurse. She indicated that she was only a substitute cook, filling in for the regular cook on occasion. 

The raid took place based on a lead provided by a barber named Elmer Duval. Duval had married Sylvia Atcherly, the nurse, in 1924 and lived with her at the hospital until the couple split up. His evident motive for spilling the beans was that he hated Shelton.

Duval said that Shelton had fired one of his nurses, Helen Goode, blaming her for Stella's death and saying that it would cost him $5,000 to "square that case."

Police found indications that Shelton would perpetrate the abortions, and if the women suffered complications he would transport them in his car to a hospital on Chicago's west side. 

Based on Duval's statements, police began an investigation that led to the raid. They found two young women in hospital beds in a front room of the flat. Both had recently undergone abortions. After giving statements they were transferred to the county hospital for care. Shelton had charged each woman $200.

Duval said that the first woman to die at Shelton's hands had died in December of 1926.

Duval  said that Stella Lickerman was the second abortion patient to die. He provided information that led police to her family. They indicated that she had been treated by Shelton, and that another doctor who examined her later found evidence of an abortion.

The only other information I've been able to obtain is that Duval said that one of the victims was 18 years old. Strangely enough, all mention of Shelton seems to vanish from the records after his indictment.

Recently added sources: