Nancy Jo Lee
SUMMARY: Nancy Jo Lee, age 17, died on April 25, 1932 after an abortion perpetrated by Oklahoma City osteopath Dr. Richard Thacker.
Dr. Richard Thacker
Dr. Richard E. Thacker
, an osteopath, maintained an office and operating rooms in the Terminal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Thacker fled the state but was eventually captured and put on trial for the April 25, 1932 death of Nancy Joe Seay Lee.
During the trial, Thacker testified that he met Frank Lee, a University of Oklahoma football player, some time about noon Saturday, April 23, 1932. Frank, Thacker said, reported that his wife had chronic appendicitis, and had had it for a long time; he brought his wife to the office about 2 o'clock that afternoon. Thacker had asked for $75, but Frank had bargained down to $30. Frank's roommate, John Clevidence, and friend Harry Horner, confirmed Frank's testimony.
The distraught husband tearfully told authorities that he had witnessed the abortion, and that Thacker had not examined Nancy prior to beginning. Frank admitted that he and Nancy lied about her health because "We were both nervous and didn't know what we were doing."
Frank wept on the stand as he told of the couple's whirlwind courtship, how they married secretly between semesters, and how they were keeping the marriage secret so that their families would not try to have it annulled.
After Nancy took ill, Frank rushed to her side, "It was too late then," he said, "but we had her taken to [Oklahoma City General Hospital]." The doctors there testified that "she was about dead when she arrived."
Thacker denied perpetrating an abortion, testifying:
I treated her by putting a sedative into the vagina and had her take a laxative; I directed him to take her some place for observation, a hospital or a nurse; the purpose of this suppository or sedative tampon was intended to relieve the pain, and I followed it up with gauze, as it was literally necessary for something to retain it in the vagina; I did not examine her uterus; I never saw her after that time; I gave him the number of a place he could take her where the expense would be reasonable. I did not perform an abortion on Mrs. Lee.
But 17-year-old Nancy was taken to Oklahoma City General Hospital, near death. Before dying, Nancy said that Thacker had performed an abortion on her.
Frank said that he learned about Thacker's practice from some of his friends at the university.
Thacker and Oklahoma osteopath
were not ordinary doctors who just did abortions on a few patients. They were abortionists, and quack abortionists at that. Singly or as a pair they were implicated in a string of deaths:
Robbie Lou Thompson
Virginia Lee Wyckoff
Lennis May Roach
Nancy Joe Lee
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
New York Times
; "Abortion Ring",
, Monday, May 9, 1932;
Thacker v State. 1933 OK CR 119. 26 P.2d 770. 55 Okl.Cr. 161. Decided: 10/27/1933. Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals;
"Thacker Held Without Bond,"
Abilene Morning News
, Jul. 22, 1932
"At Least Five Girls Dead After Illegal Operations in Oklahoma City District,"
Mexia (TX) Weekly Herald
, April 29, 1932
"Investigation of Many Suspected Cases Under Say,"
Oshkosh Daily Northwestern
, April 29, 1932
"Illegal Surgery Kills Seven Girls,"
Asbury Park (NJ) Pre
ss, Apr. 29, 1932
"Jail Osteopath, Seek Doctor in Co-eds' Deaths,"
Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette
, Apr. 29, 1932
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
"Investigation of Many Suspected Cases Under Way," Oshkosh (WI)
, April 29, 1932
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