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Read This First:
How can you know how much you can trust what you are told by a prolife or prochoice organization's communications? How do you know if what a web site or newsletter says is accurate or not?
There is one easy rule to follow: Truthful sites provide reliable sources for their information.
As you look over the information on the Cemetery of Choice, you'll find that whenever possible, I provide either links to information or actual copies of documents such as news articles and death certificates. In other cases, I at least cite my sources in a way that they can be researched and verified.
Are other sources as reliable? Do they tell you where they got the information upon which they are basing their claims? If they don't, why not?
If there are conflicting claims, such as prolife versus prochoice assertions about the death of
, check to see which site provides more reliable sources. In Becky's case, prochoice sites provide only assertions made by other abortion rights organizations or statements made by Becky's parents, who were recruited and coached by abortion-rights organizations. Prolife sites typically quote a crucial source: Becky's actual autopsy report,* which shows her reproductive organs to be perfectly healthy. Which sources can you trust?
Consider also the case of
. Prochoice pages typically post the following unsubstantiated story verbatim:
Pauline Shirley and her six children were living with her mother in Arizona while her husband sought work in California. After an illegal abortion, she began to hemorrhage and was hospitalized. She needed massive transfusions. While Pauline’s mother searched the community for donors, Pauline bled to death.
I looked deeper and found an original and reliable source: Pauline's death certificate, which indicated that she died not from an induced abortion but from a miscarriage. Perhaps a family member saw "incomplete abortion, spontaneous" and didn't understand that a spontaneous abortion is the medical term for a miscarriage. My write-up of Pauline's death actually includes an image of the death certificate. Whose word is more trustworthy: the one based on the actual death certificate, or the unsubstantiated one repeated uncritically?
Never, never take anything you are told without question. Check the original sources.
*I read Becky Bell's autopsy report myself shortly after abortion-rights groups began taking them on speaking engagements around the country. I'm still trying to find an online copy and as soon as I find one I will share it, as I share my other sources.
illegal - untrained
SUMMARY: Anna Gosch died on March 20, 1906 from an abortion perpetrated by her lover in a Kearney, Nebraska hotel.
Nebraska in 1906 wasn't like it is today. It wasn't a time and place where sexual activity was a right, with contraceptives expected to be provided for free by the government. Women and girls were expected to be chaste, if not until marriage, at least until they were engaged to a man who would marry them and provide a home for any child they conceived.
It was that world that Anna Gosch lived in.
Anna's boyfriend, Mr. Edwards, admitted that he knew Anna, that they'd had a sexual relationship, and that she had called him to tell him that her period was late. He admitted that he went to the town of Kearney, and got a hotel room with the intent of perpetrating an abortion.
Such were the morals of the day that a bellboy objected to the presence of a young woman in the man's hotel room.
Edwards wouldn't say what happened in the hotel room. He did say that the next day he took her to her home, and using a speculum he tried to insert a catheter into her uterus, which at the time was a method often used by doctors to cause an abortion. Edwards, however, couldn't get the catheter inserted.
He said that Anna went upstairs and returned with a catheter with a wire in it, which would stiffen it for insertion. He said that the wire did its job in allowing him to get the catheter inserted. He then bent the wire and threw it away.
A witness in the later trial, however, said that Edwards denied having done the abortion himself. He said that Anna had gone upstairs, then come down and told him that she thought "she had done it." Physical evidence suggested otherwise: a speculum and three catheters were in Edwards' valise when he was arrested.
A physician, Dr. Cameron, was called on Thursday, March 15, to care for Anna. He saw her twice a day until the Monday before her death. During that time he consulted with another physician and concluded that Anna was going to die.
Dr. Cameron testified,"I asked her what had been done to make her sick, and she said there had been a man had passed an instrument into her with a wire in it, rubber with a wire in it. I asked her when that had been done, and she said Monday; she thought it was Monday night." When asked about who the man was, "She said he was a man who traveled for rubber goods or instruments of some kind, said he was a traveling man."
Anna Gosch died on Tuesday, March 20, 1906, at 6:10 PM.
Edwards was convicted of homicide.
Anna's death is similar to the death of
, a systems analyst who died in 1990 after allowing her boyfriend to attempt to perform an abortion on her with a piece of aquarium tubing.
It was also unusual in that it was performed by an amateur, rather than by a doctor,
as was the case with perhaps 90% of criminal abortions
Note, please, that with issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good. For more about abortion and abortion deaths in the first years of the 20th century, see
Abortion Deaths 1900-1909
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see
The Bad Old Days of Abortion
Source: 79 Neb. 251, 112 N.W. 611; Supreme Court of Nebraska. EDWARDS v. STATE. No. 14, 988. June 7, 1907.
abortionists -- female
abortionists -- male
delay in transport
delay in treatment
district of columbia
former criminal abortionist
illegal - doctor
illegal - midwife
illegal - nurse
illegal - paramedical
illegal - post roe
illegal - unknown
illegal - untrained
national abortion federation
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