SUMMARY: On April 20, 1933, 22-year-old Mary Agnes McNeil died in Seattle, Washington from an abortion perpetrated by Dr. E. T. Martin.

In Seattle, Washington in February of 1933, a 22-year-old unmarried grocery store clerk discovered that she was pregnant. I had originally called her "Nina," but further research indicates that her name was Mary Agnes McNeil.

HooperBox.jpg
Vintage abortion pills
Mary informed her boyfriend of the pregnancy, and he got her some pills supposed to cause an abortion, but they didn't work. In March, the boyfriend got a drug called "duray." Mary took some in March and the rest on April 3 or 4, but this still didn't produce the desired abortion.


Mary's co-workers and friends didn't know that she was pregnant, and they later testified that she'd been in good health except for a headache and indigestion some time between April 7 and 10.

On April 8, Mary went to a nursing home operated by a nurse to ask about an abortion. The nurse informed the woman and her lover that Dr. E. T. Martin or another doctor would be able to perform an abortion.

On April 11, Mary's boyfriend went to Dr. Martin's office and consulted with him. On Dr. Martin's instructions, Mary's boyfriend brought her back the next morning, a Wednesday, for an examination. Mary was in Dr. Martin's office for about half an hour.

Dr. Martin then told Mary's boyfriend that the total fee, including a stay at the nursing home until Saturday night, would be $75. He then instructed the boyfriend to take Mary to the nursing home, which he did that afternoon.

On Friday the 14th, Dr. Martin performed a curettage on Mary to remove the fetus. The nurse claimed that she had no idea what Dr. Martin was planning to do. She testified, "I understood he was going to use a hot antiseptic wash. I didn't understand he was going to remove the fetus of a child. I would not have permitted Dr. Martin to remove the fetus of a child without calling in another physician to certify or find the necessity of it. Dr. Martin did not tell me what he was doing. If I knew that the girl had been pregnant and there was a fetus in the uterus, and there was to have been a curettement, I would have insisted on calling another doctor before I allowed a curettement to be done in my place."

After the D&C, Mary became alarmingly ill. Dr. Martin said that he himself was not in proper physical condition to care for the patient, so he summoned a Dr. Templeton.

Dr. Templeton evidently cared for Mary at the nursing home until April 19, a Wednesday, when he advised staff to transfer Mary to Virginia Mason hospital. She died the following morning.

It was alleged that Dr. Martin and the nurse told Mary's boyfriend to say that Mary had been suffering from cramps, had fallen, and had begun to hemorrhage.

Dr. Martin, with some corroboration from the nurse, said that Mary already had a rapid pulse and fever when she first consulted with him. He also said that she was bleeding vaginally already. Dr. Martin said that Mary had told him she'd missed three periods, taken abortifacients, had fallen, and had a chronic bowel condition.

Dr. Martin testified that he'd recommended hospitalization, but that Mary wanted to avoid the possible publicity surrounding a hospitalization. It was then that he'd decided to send her to the nursing home instead.

He also testified that she'd been bleeding from the 12th until the 14th, when he'd performed a curretage. He said that this curretage was necessary to treat her fever and bleeding.

Dr. Martin was convicted of manslaughter in Mary's death, but the nurse was acquitted.

Mary's abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.


Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1930s.

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

Sources:



  1. 1900s
  2. 1910-1919
  3. 1920s
  4. 1930s
  5. 1940s
  6. 1950s
  7. 1960s
  8. 1970s
  9. 1980s
  10. 1990s
  11. 19th century
  12. 2000-2009
  13. 20s
  14. 30s
  15. 40s
  16. NAF
  17. abortifacient
  18. abortion
  19. abortion mill
  20. abortion mortality
  21. abortionists
  22. abortionists -- female
  23. abortionists -- male
  24. alabama
  25. anesthesia
  26. arizona
  27. black women
  28. born alive
  29. botched abortion
  30. california
  31. chicago
  32. colorado
  33. connecticut
  34. cover-up
  35. death
  36. deaths
  37. deception
  38. delay in transport
  39. delay in treatment
  40. district of columbia
  41. dumped body
  42. ectopic
  43. embolism
  44. falsifying forms
  45. fetal indications
  46. florida
  47. former criminal abortionist
  48. george tiller
  49. georgia
  50. hemorrhage death
  51. hospitals
  52. illegal - doctor
  53. illegal - midwife
  54. illegal - nurse
  55. illegal - paramedical
  56. illegal - post roe
  57. illegal - unknown
  58. illegal - untrained
  59. illegal abortion
  60. illinois
  61. inadequate documents
  62. inadequate equipment
  63. inadequate resuscitation
  64. incomplete abortion
  65. indiana
  66. infection
  67. kansas
  68. llinois
  69. louisiana
  70. maryland
  71. massachusetts
  72. maternal indications
  73. maternal mortality
  74. michigan
  75. mills
  76. missouri
  77. mortality
  78. national abortion federation
  79. new jersey
  80. new mexico
  81. new york
  82. north carolina
  83. ohio
  84. oklahoma
  85. pennsylvania
  86. planned parenthood
  87. pre-roe legal
  88. previous misconduct
  89. prostaglandin
  90. quackery
  91. questionable stories
  92. ru-486
  93. rupture
  94. saline
  95. secret abortion
  96. self-induced
  97. suicide
  98. teens
  99. texas
  100. wisconsin