SUMMARY: Betty Ledel , age 27, died October 19, 1954 during an abortion being performed in Texas by naturopath Sylvia Redman.

Sylvia Redman, who had a license to practice naturopathy in Texas, signed a written confession on October 20, 1954 regarding the death of Betty Ledel the previous day.

Beginning October 8

Redman' confession said that Betty came to her on October 8, saying that she thought she was pregnant. Her period was about a week late. Redman said Betty asked her "if I could help her get rid of the baby. I told her the danger of everything and she said she was not afraid. I told her I would rather her to go somewhere else and have the baby stopped in twenty four hours, because my work is slow. I do it by shooting a little air up into the womb. (uterus) By going through the cervix into the uterus, where the embryo is carried. She told me she wanted me to do it."

Redman, age 57, said that she used a speculum and syringe to shoot some air into Betty's uterus, though she wasn't really sure if Betty was pregnant. She told Betty to return every other day. Each time Betty returned, Redman shot a little more air into her uterus, asking her if she felt anything. Sometimes Betty responded in the affirmative, sometimes not.

The Fatal Day

On October 19, Betty again went to Redman, who took her upstairs, "laid her on a table used for females," and inserted a canula into Betty's uterus. She pushed five syringes full of air into Betty's uterus and asked Betty if she could feel it. Betty said that she could, a little. "And she looked up at me and said I feel choky, and then she passed out." Ladel also noticed that Betty was bleeding vaginally.

Redman said, "I used artificial respiration. I picked her up in my arms and laid her on the floor. And I slung water at her to try to revive her, and then I had a lady downstairs to call an ambulance. The ambulance came and got her and took her to Harris Hospital.

The Brief Attempt at Cover-Up

After this happened I called a friend and asked her what to do and she said throw all that stuff away. So I went upstairs to get the instruments that I had used, and I had just come downstairs when Mr. Howerton and Mr. Armstrong and another detective walked in. I told them I'd be with them in a minute and I kinda hid the instruments that I had used on Betty Ladel behind me, and I stepped into the back and put the instruments in a garbage can.

Then I came back out to talk to Mr. Howerton and I admitted to him what I had done and he asked me what I had used on Betty Ladel, and I took him out (to) the garbage can and showed him exactly where I had hidden them and what I had used. He asked me if I had performed an abortion on her and I told him no, but I wasn't telling him the truth. And I gave these instruments to Mr. Howerton and Mr. Armstrong and the other detective.

Confirmation and Conviction

An autopsy verified that Betty had indeed been pregnant, and blamed her death on the introduction of air into her uterus to produce abortion. The six or seven week old embryo was intact and undamaged. Betty's blood vessels had air in them, and she had died from an air embolism.

The testimony of the authorities who investigated the case supports the confession. The police indicated that upon questioning, Redman showed them the table she'd used and retrieved the instruments from a garbage can.

Redman was convicted of murder by attempted abortion, and was sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary for four years.

Abortion Deaths Since 1940.jpg


During the 1950s, we see an anomaly: Though maternal mortality had been falling during the first half of the 20th Century, and abortion mortality in particular had been plummeting, the downward trend slowed, then reversed itself briefly. I have yet to figure out why. For more, see Abortion Deaths in the 1950's.

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

Sources:
  • 162 Tex.Crim. 524, 287 S.W.2d 676; Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas.
  • Sylvla Redman, Appellant,v.The STATE of Texas, Appellee.No. 27854.Dec. 14, 1955
  • Death certificate
  • "Woman Gets 4 Years In Abortion Death," Corpus Christi Times, Mar. 25, 1955
  • Script from KXAS-NBC 5, aired March 24, 1955

BettyLedelCorpusChristiTimes25Mar1955.png

BettyLedelNewscast.jpg

BettyLedelDeathCertificate.png

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