Monday, July 31, 2023

July 31, 1927: The Final Victim of Alma Dittman

Rose Savoren, age 27, travelled from her home in Leadville, Colorado to Denver with a friend named Signe Pearson. They registered at the St. Francis Hotel on July 27. Rose told Signe that she was going on a fishing trip but instead went to St. Anthony's Hospital.

On July 31, Signe and another friend, Josephine Grige, were summoned to the the hospital because Rose was dying. Rose's sister, Mary Savoren, along with a woman identified as Mrs. S. I. Godman also went to the hospital to be at the dying woman's bedside. Deputy District Attorney Segal also went to the hospital and took Rose's dying statement, implicating midwife Alma Dittman.

Rose died that day.

Police found entries about a romance with a man named Jack in Rose's diary. However, police did not believe that Jack was the father of Rose's aborted baby. They told the Fort Collins Express-Courier that they were seeking another man.

Another woman, 28-year-old Anna Parks, was also arrested but police would not say if she was connected to Rose's death or was arrested for an unrelated crime. William Lindsey was arrested and released after providing police with information about illegal abortion.

Dittman had already been identified as the abortionist responsible for the death of Mabel Duncan in 1923, Carrie McDonald in 1922, Mabelle Cannon in 1917, and Blanche Ainsley in 1912. According to the Fort Collins Express-Courier, Dittman had been released on technicalities on all of her previous abortion cases.

Evidently Dittman decided that she could not face another abortion trial. On December 15, a friend went to Dittman's home and found her lifeless on the kitchen floor. She had turned on the gas jets and asphyxiated herself. She had left notes nearby indicating that she was innocent of the crime and feared being convicted.

Watch Midwife Ends Her Own Trail of Death on YouTube.


July 31, 1918: An Unlicensed Doctor in Pennsylvania

Dr. Herman Spangler, age 27, of Easton, Pennsylvania was arrested in the summer of 1918 on two charges of abortion. One woman survived her ordeal, though her husband, Samuel Tauber, reported Spangler to the police. 

The other woman, silk worker Cecelia Dieber, age 20, was not so fortunate. She died on July 31 at Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown 48 hours after being admitted. Fetal tissue had been left in her uterus and she had contracted tetanus from her injuries.

Spangler, who had just been drafted and was about to be shipped out for induction, was arrested and brought to the hospital shortly before Cecelia's death. There, both she and her mother identified him as the man who had perpetrated Cecelia's abortion on July 20. 

Cecelia's lover had been drafted and sent to France in the Army, which might have contributed to her decision to abort the pregnancy. Cecelia refused to give his name.

Spangler was also charged with practicing medicine without a license, though he claimed to be a graduate of the Metropolitan College of Chicago.

Spangler, a married father of one, pleaded guilty on all charges and was sentenced to serve 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 years in prison and faced a fine of $1,500.


Sunday, July 30, 2023

July 30, 1960: A Death Adequately Documented by a Prochoice Site

ccording to "When Abortion was Illegal (and Deadly): Seattle's Maternal Death Toll," Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History ProjectClaudette Sayles, a 23-year-old Black woman, was a student living in Seattle in 1960. According to genealogy records and her obituary, Claudette was a mother of two. Marriage records show that she was wed in 1954 at the age of 17. Her death certificate indicates that she was divorced.

Mae Etta Scott, age 22, admitted to assisting in preparations for an abortion to be perpetrated in Claudette's apartment on July 30. Claudette died of acute pulmonary and congestion due to an air embolism caused by the abortion attempt. 

Police arrested Scott and she was charged with second-degree murder. The jury believed Scott's defense that nothing she had done had caused Claudette's death, so they acquitted her.

The Project cites the August 10, August 19, and December 16, 1960 issues of the Seattle Times and includes a clipping, "Murder Charge Filed in Death of Woman," from the August 10 Seattle Times which identifies Scott as a telephone operator and notes that a 20-year-old woman undergoing an abortion at the same time was being held as a material witness.

Taking this amount of care to verify and document a death is a laudable break from the usual abortion-rights web site. Usually they just copy and past a blub from another site without first verifying the story. This has led to at least two instances I know of in which there was no actual evidence that an illegal abortion was involved: Becky Bell and Pauline Shirley. To this day, Wikipedia insists that Becky died from an abortion in spite of the fact that her autopsy report shows otherwise. Kudos to the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project for doing their homework.

Watch "He Cited His Sources!" on YouTube.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

July 29, 1949: A Professional Lay Abortionist

On July 29, 1949, on the basis of a third-party referral, telegraph operator Dorothy Martin, just short of her 24th birthday, went to the Georgia home of P.D. Beigun for an abortion. Beigun was a contractor by trade. Dorothy, with the assistance of a man named Virgil Echols, age 21, had visited Beigun a few days earlier to make the arrangements.

Beigun took Dorothy into a bedroom while Echols waited in the living room. About 15 or 20 minutes later, Echols heard a sound described as a "slump," and Beigun called for him to come and help. Echols went into the other room and found Beigun supporting an unconscious Dorothy by the waist. Dorothy made a gurgling sound.

Echols helped Beigun lay Dorothy on the bed, and the men picked up her panties off the floor and put them back on her.

Echols tried to revive Dorothy, and asked Beigun what happened. Beigun indicated that he'd packed Dorothy's uterus with gauze. The men summoned police and an ambulance. While they waited, Beigun instructed Echols on what story they were to tell. They were to say that they'd been sitting in the living room with Dorothy when she'd felt faint and asked for a glass of water. Then, they'd say, Dorothy fainted and they moved her to the bed. Beigun warned Echols that he'd be in just as much trouble as Beigun himself unless he stuck with the story.

When the police arrived, Dorothy was dead. A toxicologist, who later participated in the autopsy, said that when he arrived at Beigun's home to remove Dorothy's body, he'd found her with her slip bloody and rolled up around her waist, but that there'd been no blood on the panties.

The next day the toxicologist and a physician performed an autopsy. They found that Dorothy's cervix had been dilated, discolored, and abraded, and that her injury must have been very painful. They believed that gauze had been forced into Dorothy's uterus, even though no gauze was present at autopsy, because her injuries were consistent with this scenario. They also concluded that Dorothy had gone into shock and died within a few minutes of her injury. Dorothy had been in good health, with no abnormalities of her heart, lungs, or kidneys and no history of fainting.

The fetus appeared to be about three to four months of gestation. It was removed at autopsy, along with Dorothy's damaged uterus, and placed in a glass jar to be presented as evidence of Dorothy's pregnancy, gestational state, and injuries. An obstetrician testified that Dorothy's baby hadn't been killed by the abortion attempt but had died due to her death.

Three days after Dorothy's death, medical supplies and broken packages of gauze bandages were found in Beigun's home and collected as evidence.

In trial, it came out that Echols had previously brought his own wife to Beigun for an abortion. That abortion took place in June, 1948. Echols had paid Beigun $65. Echols had dropped his wife off for the abortion and picked her up later to take her home. She became sick with nausea and pain, and Echols pulled a 6-inch rubber tube and about 60 feet of gauze out of his wife's uterus. Her pain became so great that Echols called a doctor, who had the sick woman brought to a hospital. Her temperature was 104 degrees. She was provided with penicillin and a blood transfusion. Beigun visited her at the hospital, asking why she'd not returned to him for treatment rather than going to somebody else.

Documents don't reveal why Echols, whose own wife had very nearly died under Beigun's care, brought another woman to the same man for his dubious services.

Beigun's trial was delayed due to his stomach problems and not being in "a mental and physical condition as to be able to confer rationally with his counsel." Ten of the 12 jurors hearing Beigun's case voted for the death penalty before settling on life in prison during an hour of deliberation. Beigun lost his appeal.

In a particularly tragic coincidence, another young woman, 'Nita Brown, died the following September from complications of an abortion shortly before Beigun's trial. 'Nita lived at the same address as Dorothy, though it's not clear if they were roommates or just lived in the same building.

Watch "Why is Horrible Good Enough?" on YouTube.


July 29, 1941: Two Doctors, One Dead Woman

On July 29, 1941, 34-year-old Agnes Pearson of White Plains, New York died at Grasslands Hospital in New York of peritonitis caused by complications from three abortion attempts perpetrated on July 11, July 26, and July 28. Agnes left two children motherless.

Dr. Nathan Schwartz, age 55, and Dr. Samuel Schwartz (not related), age 68, were charged with first degree manslaughter in Agnes' death. The Grand Jury heard evidence from Agnes' husband, four hospital doctors, three nurses, state police, and a laboratory worker.

New source: "Indict 2 Doctors As Woman Dies," New York Daily News, August 8, 1941

July 29, 1985: Failure to Diagnose Proves Fatal

Twenty-six-year-old Yvette Poteat had an abortion performed by Dr. Marion D. Dorn Jr. at The Ladies Clinic in Charleston, South Carolina on July 16, 1985. A lawsuit filed by her surviving mother and sister says that Dorn did not examine the tissue he removed from Yvette's uterus, and did not notify Yvette that the lab report showed no fetal or placental tissue in the specimen.

On July 27, Yvette experienced "sudden, sharp, constant lower abdominal pains," and was taken to a hospital by her fiancée. She was admitted to the emergency room, where she informed the doctors about the abortion. She was mistakenly diagnosed as having Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, was given medication, and was discharged after several hours with instructions to seek follow-up care in two days.

Throughout July 28, Yvette experienced continued pain. She called the hospital but "was instructed not to return but to give the medication a chance to work."

Early in the morning of July 29, Yvette collapsed at home. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital. She went into cardiac arrest due to a ruptured ectopic pregnancy that both Dorn and the hospital staff had failed to diagnose, and was pronounced dead 6:15 a.m.

The lawsuit noted that Yvette's mother "suffered the loss of the financial support of her daughter, extreme mental shock and suffering, wounded feelings, extreme grief and sorrow, has lost the love and affection and companionship of a loving and wonderful daughter, has been deprived of the use and comfort of her society."

The suit against Dorn, the clinic, the hospital and hospital doctors won a small $23,000 plaintiff verdict in 1987.

Watch Multiple Opportunities Missed at YouTube.

Source: Charleston County Court of Common Pleas Case No. 86-CP-10-3283 and 86- CP-10-3284

Friday, July 28, 2023

July 28, 1989 and 1990: The Black Lives that Don't Seem to Matter

Blacks comprise about 12 percent of the US population, yet Black woman are sold roughly 25 percent of abortions. More disturbing is this fact: Black women account for at least 50 percent of known abortion deaths. 

A smiling Black teenage girl, with her hair in a short afro. She wears a medium-toned shirt with a high, scalloped collar.
Charisse Ards

This bears repeating: A young Black woman is twice as likely to be sold an abortion as a young white woman, and once she gets on the abortion table, she is at least twice as likely to suffer fatal complications as a white woman. More to the point, a Black woman coming of age in the US is at least four times more likely to die from abortion complications than a white woman coming of age.

Charisse Kay Ards was 20 years old, single, and a mother of one. According to Life Dynamics, Charisse died July 28, 1989, in a hospital in Arapahoe County, Colorado from a pelvic infection after a legal abortion.

Mary Ann Dancy
Thirty-two-year-old Mary Ann Dancy was a mother of five children ranging in age from 2 to 17 when she went to Fleming Center in North Raleigh, North Carolina for a safe and legal abortion on July 27, 1990. She was accompanied by a male friend and her sister, Carolyn.

The abortion was performed by Clarence J. Washington at around 4:00 p.m. He documented no complications. "She seemed all right," Carolyn told the Raleigh News & Observer. "She walked to the car."

After Mary Ann went home, she took a bath and went to bed. However, she bled heavily and Washington did not return her calls. The next day, July 28, she was taken by ambulance to Halifax Memorial Hospital. She died that night during emergency surgery from hemorrhage due to a lacerated cervix.

Fleming Center had been the first freestanding abortion clinic in North Raleigh when it was originally founded by Dr. Paul Fleming. When he died in 1989, Raleigh Women's Health Organization bought the practice, which was purchased by Washington shortly thereafter. He closed it in 1991. He faced two more lawsuits in the year after Mary Ann's death, including one woman who was hospitalized for ten days for uterine lacerations. Another woman sued after a failed abortion attempt by Washington.

Planned Parenthood indicated that they had stopped referring women to Washington when they were unable to verify that he had admitting privileges at any local hospitals.

Watch "Black Women Die Disproportionately" on YouTube.

New Sources: 

Thursday, July 27, 2023

July 27, 1974: Teen Dies After Seizures

Gina Gardner, a 17-year-old cheerleader at Gulf Comprehensive High School in West Pasco, Florida, went to Dr. James R. Lund for a safe, legal abortion on July 26, 1974.

She went into convulsions almost immediately after Lund administered a fourth dose of the local anesthetic Lidocaine while she was still under the effects of the initial dose of Demerol for the procedure. She convulsed for nearly twenty minutes. 

Gina was pronounced dead at Morton F. Plant Hospital the following day.

Gina's mother, Patricia Kennedy, had to wrangle to even bring the case to court because of a recently-passed Florida law regarding medical malpractice cases. Her suit alleged that Lund's office lacked the facilities and staff to deal with respiratory arrest and failed to provide appropriate informed consent. She ended up settling out-of-court for a mere $15,000.

July 27, 1920: Doctor Never Brought to Trial

According to the Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database, on July 27, 1920, 38-year-old homemaker Adelaide Fowler died at her Chicago home after a criminal abortion. Dr. Barney Welty was arrested, and indicted by a Grand Jury on August 1 but, for reasons I have been unable to determine, the case never went to trial.

Watch Abortion Death from The Homicide in Chicago Database on YouTube.

July 27, 1985: Second Incomplete Abortion Death Thanks to Benjamin Munson

Yvonne Mesteth

Eighteen-year-old Yvonne Corrie Mesteth was the second of two patients to die of infection after safe and legal abortions by South Dakota abortionist Benjamin Munson. Munson's career as an abortionist had begun in the "worst of times", prior to legalization, but there is no evidence that any of his "back alley" patients died under his care.

Yvonne was in the second trimester of her pregnancy. The abortion was performed in Munson's office in Rapid City. Yvonne developed an infection, kidney failure, and adult respiratory distress syndrome. She died on July 27, 1985.

Munson is the third former criminal abortionist I've learned of who had a clean record -- no patient deaths -- as a criminal abortionist, only to go on to kill two patients in his legal practice. The others are Milan Vuitch (Georgianna English and Wilma Harris) and Jesse Ketchum (Margaret Smith and Carole Schaner).

Despite having already killed Linda Padfield shortly after his practice was granted legal protection, Munson was welcomed into the National Abortion Federation, and allowed to remain a member after Yvonne's death. And to this day, advocates of abortion love him and forget that Linda and Yvonne ever even existed.

Watch "The Legalization Fairy Failed Again" on YouTube.

South Dakota Death Certificate No. 140 85-003853

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

July 26, 1884: Packed in Ice and Sent Home

Big Words

Dr. Ira T. Richmond was a grandiose man. Born in New York City on March 7, 1838, he claimed to have graduated from the New York Medical College at the age of just 18. He was, however, unable to name any of the professors under which he had studied medicine.  But what did that matter? If you believed Richmond, he could cure smallpox in six hours, dropsy in one day, and cure a variety of other ailments in times ranging from a mere two minutes to about 12 hours. 

He also claimed to be extremely wealthy, saying that he did not consider his practice to be prospering unless it was bringing in $400 to $600 per day (c. $12,000 - $18,000 in 2023). He told people that after his first wife had died he had spent six years travelling through Canada and the US as a way of coping with his grief, carrying $40,000 to $50,000 with him ($1.25 million - $1.5 million in 2023) and staying in the best hotels. He also told his landlady, a widow named Carrie Lerch, that he had six children living in New York, each of whom he had gifted $15,000 (nearly half a million in 2023) to start them out in life.

He didn't do so well for himself when he moved to Lockport, New York, in 1883 at the age of 45. He set up a sanitarium which, as one newspaper put it, the place "died for want of patronage." This might be due to the fact that, as the Chicago Inter Ocean reported on July 30, 1884, Richmond "had a dubious character among physicians." 

Then he beguiled a young widow named Sarah Platts. The two married and lived at the sanitarium at the corner of High and Cottage. Evidently he took Sarah for her money before dumping her and moving on to other women he could milk for ready cash, marrying them if necessary without benefit of divorcing previous wives.

His character was indeed extremely dubious in many ways.


Some time in the summer of 1884, Lizzie Cook, a 25-year-old domestic servant, confided in her sister that she was pregnant. Either the sister or the sister's husband, William Bowen, took Lizzie to Richmond's practice, where she was examined. Richmond diagnosed her with dropsy and blood poisoning. Two days later, she was put to bed at her sister's house at about 11:00 at night, and remained there sick for nearly three weeks. Richmond attended to her on a daily basis, sometimes visiting more than once a day, during that time. She died suddenly on the afternoon of Saturday, July 26, 1884.

By that evening, her body had already been packed in ice and taken to her parents' home. She was buried on Monday morning after a large funeral. "The secrecy in getting her body removed to her home created suspicion," so her body was exhumed that afternoon for an autopsy.

A post-mortem examination revealed that Lizzie had died from abortion injuries. The coroner's jury summarized:

"That Lizzie Cook died at the residence of Wm. H. Bowen, of this city, between the hours of 1 and 2 o'clock in the afternoon of July 26, 1884, and that she came to her death from an abortion produced upon her, and from other causes unknown to the jury, and that the abortion was performed with the full knowledge of Mrs. Bowen, sister of the deceased."

Arrest and Trial

Richmond was charged with murder, a circumstance he dealt with calmly. Lizzie's sister, on the other hand, was held as an accomplice and collapsed in tears. "She was attended in court by her husband and father, and the parting between them as she was led away was very affecting."

Lizzie's sister was released on bail on August 18.

Richmond pleaded not guilty, insisting that Lizzie had not been pregnant when she died and had died of dropsy and blood poisoning. "The evidence is strong against him, however," said the July 30, 1884 Cincinnati Enquirer. Sentiment against Richmond was so strong there fears that he would be lynched.

During the trial, according to the September 5, 1884 St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, "a well-dressed and modest appearing lady, named Mrs. Butler, and her daughter, the former aged about 50 and the latter 20years old," testified before the Grand Jury before returning to their home in Smith Falls, Ontario. Mrs. Butler testified that she was Richmond's wife, and that his name was Ira Richmond Butler. He had deserted her in Canada about ten years earlier, "and even then was engaged in reprehensible practices."

So evidently he had been an abortionist in Canada as well.

Conviction and Sentence

Richmond was convicted of first degree manslaughter on October 21, 1884. The jury recommended mercy. After requesting and being denied a new trial, Richmond/Butler was sentenced to six years of hard labor at Auburn Prison.

According to New York prison records, Richmond aka Butler entered prison on November 14, 1884 to serve a 6-year sentence. He earned a commutation of 22 months and was released on January 14, 1889, having served 4 years and 2 months.


Ira Richmond Butler won himself a profile in the November 17, 1891 Buffalo Morning Express after his arrest in Buffalo for counterfeiting. "The police here understand that in Buffalo, Rochester, Watertown and other cities he pursued the same means of livelihood as here, namely, criminal malpractice [abortion] and working the pocket-books of susceptible women whom he fascinated by his agreeable manners and unctuous professions of exalted piety."

Richmond -- rather, Butler -- reportedly was a pious church-goer on Sundays and an abortionist on other days in his dubious sanitariums. That is, when he wasn't committing bigamy, marrying women to bilk them of their money.

As the Inter-Ocean said, he was a dubious character.


Tuesday, July 25, 2023

July 25, 1911: An Unknown Perp in Chicago

Katherine Collins, 23 years old, died on July 25, 1911 at Chicago's Lake Side Hospital from an abortion committed by an unidentified perpetrator. There were so many physicians and midwives practicing abortion in Chicago at the time that it is likely she availed herself of one of them.

July 25, 1911: An Unknown Chicago Perpetrator

According to the Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database, Katherine Collins, 23 years old, died on July 25, 1911 at Chicago's Lake Side Hospital from an abortion committed by an unidentified perpetrator. There were so many physicians and midwives practicing abortion in Chicago at the time that it is likely she availed herself of one of them.

Watch An Unknown Perp in Chicago on YouTube.

July 25, 1928: Doctor Sent to Joliette

Tillie Hartel, aged 19, lived with her parents in La Salle, Illinois and worked as a stenographer at the downtown Hoefferie clothing store. 

On July 2, 1928, she told her parents that she was leaving for Springfield to vacation for a week. This struck her father, Michael Hartel, as odd, since they had no relatives in the state capital and Tillie had never gone there before. She didn't write home at all during her absence. 

Dr. Joseph P. Moran

What Tillie's parents hadn't known was that she hadn't left La Salle. Instead, she had gone to the home 45-year-old nurse named Mae Bowers shared with her husband, Herman, to undergo an abortion at the hands of 32-year-old Dr. Joseph P. Moran. Tillie's brother, 19-year-old taxi driver Edward Hartel, found out where his sister was when he encountered Mrs. Bowers on the street. He later said that Mrs. Bowers had told him that his sister "is a bad little girl and is ailing with a disease." 

Their sister Julia had also known that Tillie was at Mrs. Bowers'.  Edward said he visited Tillie but didn't discuss her illness with her. "I thought it was best to leave her alone and avoid a lot of worry on her part." He also thought that the situation was "funny" and that it was best not to tell their parents to avoid worrying them.

Tillie arrived home around July 9. A few days later she took ill. Her father said that all he knew of the nature of her illness was what his wife told him -- that Tillie frequently had pains in her side which her were relieved with hot water bottles. 

Tillie's health took a turn for the worse around July 21 or 22, and Dr. Moran began coming to the house to tend to her. Mr. Hartel had no idea who had sent for Moran, nor did he know who the woman was Moran sent to attend to Tillie. He would later learn that it had been Edward, at the behest of Julia.

Tillie died at about 6:40 on the morning of July 25 after having ailed for about 14 days. Dr. Moran completed a death certificate attributing her death to acute bronchitis and the distraught family lay her to rest at Saint Vincent Cemetery in La Salle.

About three weeks later Coroner Dr. L. D. Howe received an anonymous letter saying that Tillie had actually died from a criminal abortion. He got a court order to have her body exhumed. Dr. W.D. McNally and Dr. George B. Springer of Cook County Coroner's office did autopsy in morgue of La Salle undertaking establishment and confirmed that abortion had indeed been the cause of death.

Because at the time it was considered first degree murder if a woman died during the commission of an abortion, Moran, Mrs. Bowers, and a midwife named Vera Kubra were indicted on murder charges. I have been unable to determine the outcome of the charges against Kubra, but the nurse and doctor were held without bail while awaiting trial.

Mrs. Bowers and Moran signed confessions pleading guilty to abortion in order to get the murder charges dismissed. Each was sentenced to Joliet for 1 - 10 years. 

According to the Streator, Illinois Daily Times-Press, "Mrs. Bowers freely admitted having assisted Dr. Moran in the performance of at least 75 operations in her luxurious furnished apartment in LaSalle. She also expressed the belief that the physician was a dope addict, and professed having seen him take both tablets and hypodermic injections while in her presence." Mrs. Bowers also indicated that she assisted Moran with abortions perpetrated at Moran's office in the Penney building in LaSalle.

Bowers said that Tillie's aborted baby was burned in her stove.

Moran made a good impression in prison, got out on good behavior, and went right back to committing abortions. He was sent back to Joliet to complete his sentence and when released the second time took up a life immersed in the criminal underworld. He vanished and was presumed killed in a mob hit.

Watch "The Abortionist Who Became a Mob Doc" on YouTube.


July 25, 1930: Why Was Dr. Psota Acquitted?

On July 16, 1930, homemaker Evelyn Dellorto, age 20, underwent an illegal abortion believed to have been performed at the office of Dr. Frank Psota. Evelyn died at Auburn Park Hospital in Chicago on July 25, leaving behind her husband, James, and their infant daughter, Evelyn. 

On August 1, Psota was booked for murder by abortion even though the coroner's verdict was "undetermined." Psota was indicted, and held on $10,000 bond by Judge Lyle. 

On December 10, he was acquitted of the murder charge for reasons I've been unable to determine. 


Monday, July 24, 2023

July 24, 1929: A Doctor in Chicago

According to the Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database, on July 16, 1929, 75-year-old Dr. Sven Windrow reportedly performed an abortion on 19-year-old Emmy Anderson at a Chicago location. 

Emmy died on July 24. Dr. Windrow was held by the coroner on July 25. Jacque Lagrave, age 67, was held as an accessory. Windrow was indicted February 6, 1930 for felony murder. 

Emmy, a native of Colic, Sweden, worked as a maid. Her abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

Watch A Doctor in Chicago on YouTube.

July 24, 1931: Hotel Fire Uncovers Fatal Abortion

Carolina Hotel
On July 16, 1931, B. Marby Hart, a wealthy businessman staying at the Carolina Hotel in Raleigh, North Carolina, had a get-together of some sort in his room involving a number of young women. After his companions left in the early morning hours of the 17th, Hart evidently collapsed into his bed with a lit cigarette. When he awoke to find the bed on fire, he stumbled through the smoke into the bathroom rather than into the hallway. He fell into the bathtub, striking his head. After firefighters extinguished the flames, they found him dead of smoke inhalation.

One of the people evacuated from the hotel during the fire was 20-year-old Celia Olga Roberts of Creedmoor, North Carolina.

Brantwood Hospital
What happened to Celia over the next few days is unclear. She would most likely have been transported to a hospital near the hotel. By July 23, she was in Brantwood Hospital in Oxford under the care of Dr. W. N. Thomas. 

Celia's illness had nothing to do with the fire. She was dying of septicemia from a botched abortion. Dr. Thomas testified that Celia told him "a woman in Raleigh" had perpetrated the abortion. 

She died on July 24, leaving behind a widowed mother.

What Celia said on her deathbed and the investigation that followed are not revealed in any news coverage I've found of the case. The investigation must have been less than straightforward, because it took three months before the identified abortionist was arrested: Mrs. Sophie E. Layton, a homemaker who lived at 706 Sasser Street in Raleigh with her husband, John, a mechanic.

A Justice of the Peace, I. E. Harris, was arrested "on charges of advising and procuring the operation." He turned state's evidence and identified Layton as the abortionist. Harris's statements corroborated what Celia had said on her deathbed -- that Harris had arranged the abortions and taken her to the hotel, but that he was not the father of her baby. He confessed to paying Layton $14 for the fatal abortion after meeting with her to make the arrangements on July 11. He said that he had done so out of sympathy for Celia's plight.

Eugene Mangum, age 21, also of Granville County, identified Layton as the person who went into Celia's room the night the abortion reportedly had taken place. He also testified that he had visited Celia several times in that room while she was staying at the hotel. Mangum evidently also knew the purpose of the hotel stay because Harris, he said, told him that he'd found a woman in Raleigh to "do the work."

Layton's defense was that she had never seen Celia nor had she ever been at the Carolina Hotel. She brought forth witnesses who said that they were with her on the days the abortion had allegedly been arranged and perpetrated.

Layton was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison. The jurors deliberated for five hours before finding her guilty and recommending mercy in sentencing. Layton appealed but her conviction was upheld.

She didn't stay incarcerated long. She was paroled in December of 1934 after serving roughly two years of her sentence.

Watch "Celia's Fatal Journey" on YouTube.


Sunday, July 23, 2023

July 23, 1961: Lifesaving Abortion Kills Mother

 Erika Charlotte Wullschleger was a Swedish immigrant who entered the United States through New York aboard the Ile de France on June 1, 1951. She married Arvid Douglas Peterson at Big Bear Lake in California on June 6, 1953 when she was 21 and he was 35. Their daughter, Yvonne, was born in April of 1955.  When was naturalized in 1956 at the age of 23 they lived at in San Diego. 

a tank respirator, more commonly known as an iron lung
Erika had entered Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California on July 11, 1961 at the age of 28. She was in the first trimester of pregnancy and was having problems breathing. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and placed in a tank respirator.

At this time, abortion was only legal in California if it was done to save the life of the mother. Erika's physicians made the decision to abort her child as soon as she was well enough to undergo the procedure.

On July 21st, Erika's condition was improved, and Arvid signed the consent form for the abortion, which was scheduled to take place two days later.

Erika went into cardiac arrest during the abortion, performed as scheduled on July 23, and was unable to be resuscitated. The abortion that was intended to save her life ended her life instead.

After autopsy, it was believed that Erika's original illness was caused by a hereditary disease that was exacerbated by the medications she was taking for her schizophrenia.

Erika's was not the only tragic death caused by doctors who recommended (or excused) abortion as a life-saving or health-preserving option for the mother:

  • Allegra Roseberry was pushed into an abortion in order to obtain experimental cancer treatment.
  • Anjelica Duarte sought an abortion on the advice of her physician, and ended up dying under the care of a quack.
  • Barbara Hoppert died after an abortion recommended due to a congenital heart problem.
  • Christin Gilbert died after an abortion George Tiller holds was justified on grounds of maternal health.
  • "Molly" Roe died in July of 1975 when her doctors made the dubious decision to perform a saline abortion to improve her chances of surviving a lupus crisis.
Doctors will sometimes push for an abortion due to maternal conditions that do not make pregnancy nearly as risky as the woman is led to believe. Dr. Thomas Murphy Goodwin wrote about several examples in "Medicalizing Abortion Decisions," First Things, March, 1996:

Case #1: A 21-year-old woman, 19 weeks pregnant, had been referred for "immediate abortion" after being diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. The patient was very distraught at the thought of aborting her baby so she was referred to Goodwin's practice for a second opinion. A second medical evaluation found that the patient's heart condition was mild and she was able to continue her pregnancy and have her baby.

Case #2: A 25-year-old woman, 12 weeks pregnant, was diagnosed with narrowing of a heart valve. Her physician recommended abortion, but Goodwin's practice suggested that the woman have a procedure done to correct the heart condition, since it could be performed safely during pregnancy. Her doctor expressed concerns about his liability if the patient did not abort. Goodwin did not learn of the final outcome of this woman's pregnancy.

Case #3: A 38-year-old woman, 11 weeks pregnant, was referred by her pastor. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was told that she should abort her baby so that she could undergo chemotherapy and actually had the abortion scheduled. Goodwin's practice reviewed the chemotherapy regimen with her and explained that though the long-term effects were unknown, it seemed to be well tolerated by the fetus when administered in pregnancy. The patient's doctor did not want to assume liability for the case so Goodwin's practice managed her chemotherapy. She delivered a healthy baby.

Case #4: A 20-year-old woman, 18 weeks pregnant, was diagnosed with kidney disease that seemed to be due to a new onset of lupus. Her doctor recommended that she undergo an abortion, both for her own health and to avoid any harm that might come to the fetus due to medications. The patient did not want to abort her baby. Goodwin's practice told her that although her chances of carrying her baby successfully to term were slim due to her condition, abortion would have an unpredictable effect on her own health. The patient was able to continue her pregnancy. Goodwin's practice repeatedly had to demonstrate to other physicians that certain diagnostic tests they wanted to do would not be likely to harm the baby and thus could safely be performed during pregnancy. The patient was thus able to pursue care for her own condition without having to abort her baby. Sadly, she went into premature labor at 27 weeks and her baby subsequently died from infection at one week of age.

Goodwin lamented that many women wound up undergoing unwanted abortions of wanted babies because they were misinformed by their doctors. Some of these doctors were merely -- albeit inexcusably -- ignorant, but others recommended abortion purely to avoid potential liability. This sort of bullying into unwanted abortions should be common ground for people all across the political spectrum.

Sources: California Certificate of Death, File # 61-081581; San Diego County Coroner's Report # 37646, genealogical research

Saturday, July 22, 2023

July 22, 1925: Woman Implicated in Abortion Death

Mrs. Margaret Shott Hibbins, age 25, lived in White Plains, New York. On July 29, 1925, she was indicted for first degree manslaughter for the death of 17-year-old Gertrude H. Wynants of Ossining.

Gertrude had died in the Ossining hospital on July 19 from the effects of a criminal abortion.

The prosecutors were planning to ask that Hibbins's bail be set at $5,000, an amount that Hibbens would be able to meet.

According to census records, Gertrude was the daughter of Legrand Wynants, a carpenter, and his wife, Eva.


July 22, 1974: Grace Period for Hospital, Death for Mother

On July 22, 1974, twenty-two-year-old Carole Yvonne Wingo's sister-in-law drove her to Mercy General Hospital for an abortion.

Despite the name, Mercy was not a general hospital. It was an abortion hospital. It was also a hospital in big trouble even before Carole's death.

The Michigan Public Department of Health had cited Mercy for 43 violations of nursing standards and 12 violations of physical plant standards in October of 1973, and had withheld their license. Among the violations were that the operating room lacked a cardiac monitor, a resuscitator, and a defibrillator. The facility was allowed to stay open until their license expired at the end of June. The owners then bought some time by appealing the health department order. Thus the place was still in operation when Carole decided on abortion.

Staff told Carole's sister-in-law to return in two hours. When she did, staff told her that Carole was still sleeping and that it was against hospital policy to awaken a patient. She called at one-hour intervals, and each time was told that Carole was still asleep. 

When she called at 4:30, staff told her that the doctor was talking to Carole in her room. When she called at 5:30 they told her to come to the hospital and speak to the doctor. When she arrived, they told her that Carole was dead.

Carole's mother, Mabel Wright, filed suit against the facility and doctors David Northcross, Chuk Nwokedi, and Robert Wolf on behalf of the family, including Carole's four-year-old daughter. 

Watch Grace Period Allows Woman's Death on YouTube.


July 22, 1949: Mom and Aunt Give Fatal Abortifacients

Alma Deery

Alma Fay Deery's parents did not approve of her boyfriend, 21-year-old musician and ex-paratrooper James Souch. They had ordered Souch to stay away from their daughter, a 16-year-old student at Phoenixville (PA) High School. 

In their efforts to break off the romance, they sent Alma to stay with her grandmother, Bertha Deery, in Sheeder, PA, on July 18, 1949. (One source says that Alma was staying with her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Ogden.)

The plan didn't work. At around 9:20 on the evening of July 22, James, who had tracked Alma to her grandmother's house, managed to meet with her secretly. He later told police that he had begged her to run away with him to Elkton, Maryland, to get married. She had agreed, James said. They planned to elope the following day.

They never got a chance. At 10:40 p.m.,  Alma was found unresponsive on the floor of her bedroom.

An unidentified person called the Phoenixville Hospital and asked for an ambulance to be sent to the home. It was too late. Alma was dead.

Coroner Cooper T. Bishop said that the death "didn't look natural." An autopsy determined that she was about a few months pregnant. It did not, however, reveal a cause of death, but did find "traces of chemical poisoning in the girl's body." He ordered the burial postponed pending an investigation. Alma's vital organs were sent to a laboratory for analysis.

A coroner's jury found that "Alma Fay Deery came to her death July 22, 1949, at 10:45 p.m., at Sheeder, Chester county, P., as the result of drugs administered by her parents, Gladys and Earl K. Deery."

Alma's father Earl K. Deery, a 44-year-old store clerk, was arrested on July 29 along with his wife, Mary Gladys Deery, age 37, and Mary's sister, Myrtle Lahr, age 31. The trio had voluntarily turned themselves in.

Earl and Mary were charge with attempted abortion causing death, aiding and abetting an abortion, and conspiracy to do an unlawful act by giving their daughter the fatal abortifacients. Myrtle was charge with aiding and abetting an abortion, conspiracy to do an unlawful act, and accessory before and after the fact. Each was held on $3,000 bail

Souch was arrested for aiding and abetting an attempt to commit an abortion but the charge was dropped and he signed out on a $500 bond as a material witness.

On December 5, Alma's mother and aunt pleaded guilty to administering drugs for an illegal purpose. They admitted that Mary had given Alma pills procured by Myrtle to cause an abortion. The last dose had been given to her around July 17, right about when Alma had been relocated to her grandmother's home to keep her away from the baby's father. Each woman was sentenced to serve between 1 and 12 months in prison. 

They were not charged for Alma's death because it was impossible to prove that the drugs were the cause of her death.  

About 30 - 40 Phoenixville residents had signed a petition asking for leniency based on the women's good reputations, but the judge said, "Much as the circumstances surrounding the case have aroused sympathy, I do not see that the offense of abortion may be minimized." Evidently, then the light sentence could have been, at his discretion, even lighter.


July 22, 1985: Happy Birthday, Lynette's Baby

 "Lynette" underwent an abortion performed by John Roe 49 at a Michigan Planned Parenthood on July 16, 1985. Nobody performed an ultrasound to determine gestational age prior to the abortion. After Roe ruptured the amniotic sac, he realized that Lynette was much more advanced in her pregnancy than he thought. He sent Lynette to a hospital. 

Five days later she gave birth to a little boy weighing only 2 pounds, 3 1/2 ounces. The child suffered developmental delay, intracranial bleeding, hydrocephalus, and disfigurement. (Washtenaw County Michigan Circuit Court Case No. 85-30344 NM)

Friday, July 21, 2023

July 21, 1953: Cousin Performs Fatal Abortion

Marilyn Jean Reitz and her cousin, Gloria June Weisbrod, had grown up in Fresno, California. Marilyn is listed in the 1950 census as a farmer, her father, Henry, as a machinist in a packing company, and her mother, Elsie, as a clerk in a dry goods store.

In contrast to this prosaic life, Gloria was more daring. An accordion player, she had played a stint in Alaska in 1952. By mid-1953, she was playing at a café in Long Beach and planning to go to Korea to play for servicemembers stationed there.

Around March of 1953, when Marilyn was 21 and Gloria was 22, the young women wanted to be closer to Los Angeles. Marilyn moved to Inglewood and Gloria to Compton.

On July 21, 1953, Marilyn went to Gloria's house, distraught. She told her cousin that she was about nine weeks pregnant and had drunk something to try to cause an abortion. The baby's father, a sailor, had until recently been stationed at San Diego, but was no longer there. Marilyn begged Gloria to help her.

Instead of seeking out one of the many doctors doing abortions in the Los Angeles area, the two decided that Gloria was up to the task. She took some sort of instrument and went about trying to dislodge the fetus.

Unfortunately, Marilyn soon told Gloria, "I think I'm going to faint," and collapsed.

Gloria, caring more about her cousin's life than her own freedom and reputation, called for help from rescue. The first to arrive at the house were firemen, who used a device to administer oxygen. When the police arrived, Gloria admitted to having performed the abortion on her cousin.

Marilyn was pronounced dead on arrival at Physicians and Surgeons Hospital in Compton. She had most likely died from an air embolism.

Gloria was arrested at 12:25 am on the 22nd, charged with suspicion of murder. 

Marilyn's parents, Henry Jr. and Elsie Reitz, travelled from Fresno to Compton to identify their daughter's body.

After a few months of delays during which she was free on a $3,000 bond, Gloria entered a guilty plea for performing an illegal abortion. She was sentenced to three years on probation.

Watch Cousin's Help Proves Fatal on YouTube.