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.
illegal - doctor
Marie Hecht, employed as a domestic on Dearborn Avenue in Chicago, died September 2, 1899 at
St Elizabeth's Hospital
from complications of an abortion performed several days earlier by
Police officer Frank Snyder who testified that on August 31, 1899, Hagenow, who was then going under the name of Louise Hagenow, was brought into Marie's room at St Elizabeth's by two detectives. Aided by a translator, since Marie spoke only German, the police took notes and prepared a statement for Marie to sign.
Synder said that Hagenow had asked Marie, "Is it as bad as this, my poor child?" to which Marie answered, "Yes, see what you have done!" Hagenow tried to get Marie to say that she'd been bleeding when she'd come to Hagenow for treatment, and Marie insisted that she had not been.
Marie's final statement, prepared with the help of the translator, read:
I am twenty three years old and will be twenty four years on the tenth day of November. I was born in Villason county, Luzerne, Switzerland where my parents still reside. I left Germany four years ago.
In January of this year I became acquainted with John Schockweiler, a young man about twenty years old who is employed in a freight house on the south side and resides at 140 Orleans street. I had sexual intercourse with him for about five or six times and in the month of May. I noticed I was pregnant and on Thursday at 12:30 PM August 24th 1899 I went of my own free will to visit Dr Louise Hagenow at 330 Division street. She laid me on a lounge and examined me and after the examination she said she would relieve me of the child for $75 and that she would take it from me with instruments.
"No," I said. "No, I cannot afford to pay you $75 for the work. I ll give you $70." Then she agreed I then gave her $70. She first laid me on a lounge and began to use an instrument on me. During that time I suffered considerable pain I remained on the lounge for about twenty minutes. Then the doctor made me get up and walk about the room. I was so weak I could not walk very long. Then I went and laid down on the bed.
The doctor then came in and began to use instruments again. I felt as though I was being cut to pieces and at about 5:30 PM she took the child away from me. I suffered great pain and the following day, Friday, August 25th, I left and took a car for 941 North Clark street -- a friend of mine named Spitzer -- where I remained until Monday morning at ten o'clock, August 28th, when I left and was brought to the St Elizabeth Hospital in a carriage.
If I die I desire that all costs and expenses attending my funeral expenses shall be paid out of my savings which amount to $300 and which is in the Germania Safe Deposit Vaults corner of Clark and Germania place. Mr. Gomme, my employer, still owes me $76 for services rendered after all the aforesaid expenses are paid I desire that the balance of my money be paid to my parents, John and Anne Hecht of Villason county Luzerne Switzerland. I now see the woman standing at my bedside who performed the abortion.
In the subsequent investigation, Augusta Spitzer, the friend to whom Marie had referred in her dying declaration, said that Marie had come to visit her at her place of employment on the morning of Thursday, August 24 and had remained there about an hour. Marie had been in both good health and good spirits. The next time Augusta saw Marie was at around 8:00 p.m. on the following day. Marie had come to Augusta's home sick and needing help in undressing and going to bed. Augusta noticed that Marie's clothing was bloody.
Though Marie had no medical care given, a woman named Emma Baldesch remained with her during the day on Monday, August 28 during the day and was relieved by a woman identified as Mrs. Amich who remained with Marie overnight.
On Tuesday, Marie was taken to the hospital. Augusta visited her alone on Wednesday and on Thursday and Friday in the company of Lena Haller and Emma Baldesch. When the women arrived on Friday, according to Augusta, Sister Philomena, who had been present when Marie gave her dying declaration, related hat Marie had said to Hagenow, "What did you do to me I have got to die."
Hagenow responded, "Yes, what did you do to me? See in what trouble you bring me; you promised me not to say anything to anybody."
Marie replied, "Yes, I did, but I couldn't deny it any longer."
Dr. Kramps testified that Marie's vulva, vagina, and uterus were in a mutilated condition, along with bruises and lacerations indicative of the use of "some odd instrument."
Dr. Hagenow was sentenced to Joliet prison in 1900 for Marie's death. She confessed in a later trial that she had wrapped Marie's baby in newspapers and buried it in a vacant lot on Milwaukee Avenue. I have been unable to determine if the baby's body was ever retrieved or if that vacant lot was his or her final resting place.
Hagenow, who had already been implicated of the abortion deaths of
in San Francisco, would go on to be linked to over a dozen Chicago abortion deaths:
Nina H. Pierce
Hagenow was typical of criminal abortionists in that she was a
I have no information on overall maternal mortality, or abortion mortality, in the 19th century. I imagine it can't be too much different from maternal and abortion mortality at the very beginning of the 20th Century. Note, please, that with 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 on this era, see
Abortion Deaths in the 19th Century
. For more on pre-legalization abortion, see
The Bad Old Days of Abortion
Homicide in Chicago Interactive
"Faints on Witness Stand," Chicago Tribune, Nov. 28, 1907
People v. Hagenow,
Supreme Court of Illinois. Oct. 26, 1908 p. 370 of Northeastern Reporter
Hagenow v. People
, Opinion filed Dec. 20, 1900, page 545 of Northeastern Reporter
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"