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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
On September 14, 1925, 19-year-old Miss Elizabeth Welter died in Chicago's John B. Murphy Hospital from complications of an abortion perpetrated a week earlier at the office of Dr.
Elizabeth, who worked as a clerk, had gone to Chicago from her home of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, a few weeks before her death. Mrs. Alta Vail told the deputy coroner "Elizabeth roomed at 658 Roscoe street. A week ago she came to me and said she was very sick. I told her to stay at my home until she was better. Little by little she told me her story. She had obtained a position as a clerk in a store. Some months ago she began going out with a man. This man, she said, was responsible for her condition. She did not even know his name, she told me."
The guilty party likely was a bit closer to home. A man named Lawrence Vail was identified by the coroner as responsible for the pregnancy, and the coroner recommended his arrest. Though the coroner also recommended the arrest of Dr. Hagenow. However, because Vail refused to give a statement, police were unable to gather enough evidence to arrest her.
Elizabeth, a Chicago native, was the daughter of German immigrants Matthew and Mary (Jacoby) Welter.
Like many physicians, especially female physicians, Hagenow was a popular Chicago abortionist. Elizabeth was one of the last Chicago abortion deaths attributed to Dr. Lucy Hagenow, aka Dr. Louise Hagenow. The others include:
Nina H. Pierce
Hagenow had set up shop in the more abortion-genial Chicago after being repeatedly prosecuted for abortion deaths in San Francisco. The first young woman,
, died in 1886.
died in 1888. There were two other fishy deaths --
, whose abortion death Hagenow sloughed off as having been self-induced, and Franz Krone, an elderly man whose cash and valuables vanished as he died in Hagenow's hospital.
Hagenow was typical of criminal abortionists in that she was a
-- though I am working on verifying or disproving this.
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 1920s
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see
The Bad Old Days of Abortion
Homicide in Chicago Interactive
"Died as Result of Criminal Operation,"
Bainer (MN) Daily Dispatch
, Sept. 14, 1925
"Girl's Brief Fling with City Night Life," Mattoon (IL) Journal Gazette, Sept. 14, 1925
Cook County death index
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