SUMMARY: Marie Epperson, age 19, died February 26, 1929 after an abortion in Oklahoma City. Two physicians were suspected.

The spring of 1932 brought a sudden string of criminal abortion deaths to Oklahoma City, attributed to two physicians in the University of Oklahoma area -- J.W. Elsiminger and Richard E. Thacker. Marie Epperson, just 19 years old, was an earlier victim, who had died February 26, 1929. Her brother had told authorities about the abortion.

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Dr. Richard Thacker

In mid-April, 1932, Mrs. Isobel F. Ferguson died of suspected abortion complications. Both Elsiminger and Thacker were suspected in the case.

The very next day, Ruth Hall died of suspected abortion complications. Once again, Elsiminger and Thacker were suspects.

Eisiminger was an osteopath in Oklahoma City. He alone was the suspect in the abortion death of Virginia Lee Wyckoff, a 21-year-old student at the University of Oklahoma. Virginia died ten days after Isobel Ferguson's death. Elsiminger was charged with murder in her death.

That same day, Lennis May Roach died of suspected abortion complications. Both Elsiminger and Thacker were suspected in the case.

The next day, 1932, another young woman died of abortion complications -- 17-year-old Nancy Joe Lee, a University of Oklahoma co-ed who was secretly married to a university football player. Thacker, a surgeon, was charged with the death.

Thacker had also been charged with murder in the abortion death of Robbie Lou Thompson, age 21, the previous week.

The total number of deaths attributed to Thacker and Elsiminger was eight.

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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Sources:
  • New York Times 4/29/32;
  • "Probe 'Epidemic' of Illegal Operations in Oklahoma City," Elyria, Ohio, Chronicle Telegram, Apr. 29, 1932
  • "Jail Osteopath, Seek Doctor in Co-eds' Deaths," Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, Apr. 29, 1932
EisimingerThackerElmiraNYStar-Gazette29Apr1932.jpg


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