SUMMARY: Barbara Hanson, age 21, died in Boston, MA after an abortion perpetrated by an untrained man.

On October 13, 1939, the body of Barbara Hanson, age 21, was found in a Boston motel room.

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Barbara Hanson

Barbara, an office worker who had attended Penn State briefly, had recently graduated from a Boston business school and was living in nearby West Roxbury from State College, Pennsylvania with her married sister, Hilda. The two young women had moved to the Boston area in 1936 after the death of their mother.

Barbara had checked into the motel herself under an assumed name the previous day. At about 2:00 a.m., other guests at the motel complained to management about loud noises, described in some accounts as screams, coming from the room.

A hotel employee detective went to the room and found Barbara dead on the bed. She was tentatively identified by the I.D. found in her purse. The identification was verified by her uncle.

Police found fingerprints on four empty cocktail glasses and an open bottle on the bedside table.

Four men were in the room with her: I. Bernard Gannon, age 23, James Carter, 27, Raymond Fermino, 26, and George F. Norton, 26. Reports say that one of them admitted on the spot to having perpetrated an abortion on Barbara, but the reports to not specify which one.

An autopsy showed that immediately after the abortion, Barbara had suffered a fatal heart attack. Barbara's father, Frederick S. Hanson, a Penn State building engineer, went to New York to claim her body. When questioned by reporters, he said, "I just received worth that Barbara had passed on. I don't know any of the circumstances."

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James Carter
After their trial started, James Carter and George F. Norton pleaded guilty to performing the abortion that killed Barbara, and each received a 5-7 year sentence. Bernard Gannon, who was the baby's father, and Raymond Fermino each pleaded guilty as accessories and were sentenced to one year.

During the 1940s, while abortion was still illegal, there was a massive drop in maternal mortality from abortion. The death toll fell from 1,407 in 1940, to 744 in 1945, to 263 in 1950. Most researches attribute this plunge to the development of blood transfusion techniques and the introduction of antibiotics. Learn more here.

external image MaternalMortality.gif



For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion


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Barbara in State College Area HS 1935 Year Book


Sources:
  • "Attractive Blond Found Murdered in Boston Hotel," Coshocton (OH) Tribune, Oct. 13, 1939
  • "Ex-Penn State Co-Ed, 21, Found Dead in Hotel," Pittsburgh Press, Oct. 13, 1939
  • "Find State College Girl Dead In Room At Boston Hotel," Danville (PA) Morning News, Oct. 14, 1939
  • "Four Quizzed in State College Woman's Death at Boston Hotel," Harrisburg (PA) Telegraph, Oct. 14, 1939
  • "State College Girl's Death Being Probed," Altoona (PA) Times, Oct. 14, 1939
  • "Four Held in Death of Former State College Girl," Altoona (PA) Times, Oct. 16, 1939
  • "4 On Trial In Surgery Death," (Chester, PA) Delaware County Times, Dec. 13, 1939
  • "Sentence Four In Girl's Death," Danville (PA) Morning News, Dec. 14, 1939

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  1. 1900s
  2. 1910-1919
  3. 1920s
  4. 1930s
  5. 1940s
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  11. 19th century
  12. 2000-2009
  13. 20s
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  16. NAF
  17. abortifacient
  18. abortion
  19. abortion mill
  20. abortion mortality
  21. abortionists
  22. abortionists -- female
  23. abortionists -- male
  24. alabama
  25. anesthesia
  26. arizona
  27. black women
  28. born alive
  29. botched abortion
  30. california
  31. chicago
  32. colorado
  33. connecticut
  34. cover-up
  35. death
  36. deaths
  37. deception
  38. delay in transport
  39. delay in treatment
  40. district of columbia
  41. dumped body
  42. ectopic
  43. embolism
  44. falsifying forms
  45. fetal indications
  46. florida
  47. former criminal abortionist
  48. george tiller
  49. georgia
  50. hemorrhage death
  51. hospitals
  52. illegal - doctor
  53. illegal - midwife
  54. illegal - nurse
  55. illegal - paramedical
  56. illegal - post roe
  57. illegal - unknown
  58. illegal - untrained
  59. illegal abortion
  60. illinois
  61. inadequate documents
  62. inadequate equipment
  63. inadequate resuscitation
  64. incomplete abortion
  65. indiana
  66. infection
  67. kansas
  68. llinois
  69. louisiana
  70. maryland
  71. massachusetts
  72. maternal indications
  73. maternal mortality
  74. michigan
  75. mills
  76. missouri
  77. mortality
  78. national abortion federation
  79. new jersey
  80. new mexico
  81. new york
  82. north carolina
  83. ohio
  84. oklahoma
  85. pennsylvania
  86. planned parenthood
  87. pre-roe legal
  88. previous misconduct
  89. prostaglandin
  90. quackery
  91. questionable stories
  92. ru-486
  93. rupture
  94. saline
  95. secret abortion
  96. self-induced
  97. suicide
  98. teens
  99. texas
  100. wisconsin