SUMMARY: Rita Shea, age 33, died on December 4, 1965 after an abortion perpetrated by Dr. Benjamin Lockhart in a motel near Kennedy Airport in New York.

Queens patrolman Howard Bailey, morgue attendant Victor Genz, and a Texas man, Benjamin Lockhart, were arrested in the December 4, 1965 abortion death of Rita Shea, a 33-year-old Long Island woman.

Some articles refer to Lockhart, who turned himself in to police, as a medical student, while others identify him as a doctor.

Lockhart confessed to performing the abortion in a motel room near Kennedy airport. After Rita died, her body was put in a car outside her home.

Bailey, a married man, had evidently arranged the abortion to keep his affair with Rita a secret. He paid a portion of the abortion fee, which was between $100 and $300. He had been a 19-year veteran with the police force.

Rita's abortion was a bit unusual in that most pre-legalization abortions were done by physicians. But abortions like hers, performed by people with at least some medical training, were still more common than amateur or self-induced abortions. (See //The Bad Old Days of Abortion//.)

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 Abortion+Deaths+Since+1940.jpg

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


RitaSheaOdessa_American_Fri__Dec_17__1965_.jpgSources:
  • New York Times 12-19-65, 12-26-65
  • "Patrolman Suspended in Abortion Death," The Miami News, Dec. 18, 1965
  • "Doctor Held," El Paso Herald, Dec. 17, 1965
  • "Doctor Accused in Murder Case," Odessa American, December 17, 1965
RitaSheaMiamiNews18Dec1965.png

RitaSheaEl_Paso_Herald_Post_Fri__Dec_17__1965_.jpg

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