SUMMARY: Loretta Wilson, age 19, died on December 23, 1934 after an abortion perpetrated in New York by Dr. John Becker, Jr.

Loretta Wilson Daily_Capital_News_Sat__Dec_29__1934_.jpg
On Christmas day of 1934, the nude body of a young woman was found under a pile of leaves in a thicket near a highway south of New York City. One source says that truck drivers found the body, another says it was spotted by two truck drivers.

The young woman was estimated to have been dead between 12 and 24 hours. Eventually the date of death was determined to be December 23.

Laura and Joseph Devine, whose 19-year-old daughter, Loretta Wilson, had been missing since December 19, contacted authorities and were able to positively identify the body. An autopsy revealed that she had bled to death from complications of an abortion

Loretta had left home at noon on the 19th, telling the landlady that she was going to see a doctor. Her husband of two years, William, knew better. Though initially he'd denied even knowing that Loretta had been pregnant, he later said he'd paid Dr. John H. Becker Jr., age 52, $55 for the abortion. He added that his wife's friend, Kay Dinger, had been present when the transaction took place.

William, whose profession is alternatively given as a chauffeur and a truck driver, came home from work on December 19 to find Loretta not home. He assumed that she had gone to Becker for the abortion since he'd made the appointment for the 19th. He went to Becker's office and learned that she wasn't there, and the next day he reported her missing.

Becker admitted to having been paid $2 for examining Loretta on December 17, but denied perpetrating the abortion. He said that she was supposed to return on the 18th but failed to show up. However, his assertion that he'd not seen Loretta after the 17th was challenged by a witness who picked Becker out of a lineup of seven men as the one he'd seen standing by a car near the area where Loretta's body was found.

Becker was found guilty and sentenced to between 18 months and three years in Sing-Sing.

One more note: Loretta's abortion was typical of pre-Roe abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

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


Sources:
  • New York Times 12-25-34, 12-26-34, 12-27-24
  • "Arrest Doctor After Grilling In Girl's Death," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 26, 1934
  • "Doctor Denies Part In Illegal Operation," Brownsville Herald, Dec. 26, 1934
  • "Plea of Not Guilty Put In By Dr. Becker," Independent Record, Dec. 27, 1934
  • "Body of Nude Girl is Found," (Reno) Nevada State Journal, Dec. 25, 1935
  • "Doctor Identified as Near Scene of Nude Girl's Death," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Decl 28, 1934
  • "Dr. Becker Gets Sing Sing Term," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jun. 21, 1935
  • "Denies He Operated," Daily Capital News, Dec. 29, 1934
  • "Young Woman Dies After Operation; Physician Held," Pittston Gazette, Dec. 26, 1934
  • "Doctor Nabbed in Girl's Death," Shamokin News Dispatch, Dec. 26, 1934


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