Monday, February 06, 2023

February 6, 1952: An Airman's Grief

 Elizabeth Barbara "Betty" Helman was the 35-year-old wife of Air Force Major Carl Helman Jr., who had been stationed in Tokyo for over a year. Evidently Betty found the separation lonely, for she became pregnant while he was away.

On January 28, 1952, Betty was admitted to the Tinker Air Force Base hospital in critical condition, suffering from pain and low blood pressure. Her red blood count was very low, and her white count very high, indicating infection. She admitted to having undergone an abortion on January 25.

When questioned by investigators on January 31, Betty said that friends had referred her to a woman named Jane. She was shown a photo and identified the woman in it, 43-year-old Mrs. Jane McDaniel White, age 43, as her abortionist. She gave White's address as the place she had gone for the abortion. Betty put her statement in writing and signed it. 

Betty said that White had put her off for several days while she got over her fear of undergoing the abortion. She promised White $100, but only paid her $50. White initiated the abortion with some kind of packing and sent Betty home.

Betty became very ill, and called White who with her daughter came to Betty's home and "scraped her out".

After Betty gave her statement, police raided White's home. White and her daughter, Mrs. S. B. Anderson, Jr., were nowhere to be found. It took eight days for police to track the pair down and arrest them for murder and procuring an abortion.

Betty died on February 6 from peritonitis, leaving her three children without a mother. Her husband had managed to rush home from Tokyo in time to see his wife before she died. An autopsy verified that an abortion had been performed and had caused Betty's death.

White was at first denied bail, then finally released on a $20,000 bond. 

When questioned White said, "She called me on the phone the latter part of January. She asked for Jane and gave her name as Betty. I was called several times. Then on a Saturday she came to my house and said she wanted to talk to me."

White said that Betty had told her that she thought she was pregnant. She told White that she had been vomiting. "She also said she had been taking white capsules and shots."

When Betty had asked her to perform an abortion, White asserted, "I told her I strictly was not in the business." She said that Betty's vomiting made her think that the young woman was suffering from ptomaine poisoning.

White admitted that she had indeed gotten a phone call from Betty and had gone with her daughter to the Helman home. "She asked if I would come by for she needed a laxative. I went by for I felt sorry for her and I suggested she get a doctor immediately."

White admitted under examination that had no medical training. She said that she'd assumed that Betty was suffering from ptomaine poisoning because she'd gone through a bout herself. She'd recommended a laxative for Betty because "I didn't think a little milk of magnesia would hurt her."

The criminal case against her went well until the defense managed to have the Betty's deathbed statement, given on January 31, inadmissible because it couldn't be proved satisfactorily that Betty believed herself to be near death. With the deathbed statement thrown out, the case was dropped.

This had been White's third arrest for abortion charges. She had been convicted in 1947, under the name Jane McDaniel, and sentenced to seven years for an abortion she had performed on a 17-year-old girl, but the conviction was thrown out on a technicality based on how advanced the girl's pregnancy had been. A new trial had been scheduled, but it never took place because the main prosecution witness had left the state or died. White was clearly operating as an abortionist, since an operating table, fashioned from an old restaurant table, and surgical instruments had been sized from her home at the time of her arrest -- "enough instruments and medicine to stock a small hospital." She was charged again in 1951 but the main witness had vanished and the case had been dismissed.

Watch The Atypical Abortionist on YouTube.


No comments: