Skip to main content
You are not a member of this wiki.
Pages and Files
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.
SUMMARY: Dora Swan, age 24, died on March 23, 1907 in Chicago after an abortion believed to have been perpetrated by Dr. Louise Achtenberg.
In March of 1907, Dora Swan, the 24-year-old wife of railroad worker W. H. Swan, was living with her mother, Mrs. Phillip de Bre, on Marshfield Avenue in Chicago.
On March 16, Dora underwent an abortion at the hands of
. Achtenberg, identified as a midwife in news coverage, came to the home several times to care for Dora, but her condition was not improving.
Her family called the family physician, Dr. C. S. Friend. He had her admitted to
Englewood Union Hospital
in Chicago to be treated. Dora died from post-abortion infection on March 23.
Actenberg, whose profession is listed as doctor, midwife, or unlisted at the Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database, was held responsible by the coroner, but there is no record that charges were filed.
Achtenberg, most likely a doctor identified as a midwife due to her obstetric work, went on to be implicated in the 1909 abortion deaths of
. She was also implicated in the 1921 abortion death of
. Later, in 1924, it was Dr. Louise Achtenberg who was held responsible for the death of
. In spite of all of these deaths, I can find no record that Achtenberg was ever incarcerated.
Note, please, that with overall public health 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
Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database
"Midwife Is Under Arrest,"
, March 25, 1907
"Woman Dies; Coroner Called,"
, March 25, 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
help on how to format text
Turn off "Getting Started"