Amelia Weber

Amelia Weber19thcentury, newyork, illegaldoctor, coverupOn May 19, 1858, 28-year-old Amelia Weber died at the home of 58-year-old Dr. Charles Cobel in Brooklyn and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery.The undertaker testified that Cobel had engaged him to perform the funeral, and that he had collected Amelia’s body from Cobel’s garret. Cobel attributed Amelia’s death to paralysis.

“[F]rom the privacy of the burial and other mysterious circumstances surrounding the case, the body, six days after interment, was ordered by the Coroner to be exhumed for medical examination.”

The witnesses at the inquest included Amelia’s husband, who kept a hotel in Schobaria County, New York. Testimony indicated that Amelia had left her home and three children in Warrenville a few days before her death, supposedly to visit friends in Brooklyn and to do some shopping.

Instead, Amelia went directly to Cobel’s house, arriving on May 8.

The inquest findings included:

“Dr. Cobel received an application from Mrs. Weber, who had left home for that purpose with her husband’s consent, on the 8th instant, to produce an abortion upon her person, he did so, and violent inflammation supervened, which baffled his skill. He then called Dr. Kertachmann, pretending that the lungs were the seat of disease, but it was to no purpose.”

The autopsy revealed noting at all wrong with Amelia other than an abdominal infection caused by the abortion and bringing about her death.

Cobel was indicted for manslaughter in Amelia’s death on November 30, 1861. On January 23, 1862 he was tried and found not guilty of manslaughter in the second degree, but guilty of the misdemeanor charge of using instruments on a pregnant woman with intent to cause abortion.

Cobel successfully appealed the misdemeanor conviction on the grounds that he couldn’t simultaneously be guilty of performing the abortion yet not guilty of causing Amelia’s death by performing the abortion.

Cobel, a known abortionist, was also implicated in the deaths of Antoinette Fennor, Catharine DeBreuxal, and Emma Wolfer. However, he was acquitted in his trial for Amelia’s death.

AmeliaWeberDeath.pngAmelia’s abortion was typical of pre-Roe abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

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


  • “Death By Abortion”, The Brooklyn Eagle, 31 May, 1858
  • “Death from Abortion,” New York Evening Post, 31 May, 1858
  • “The Late Death from Abortion,” New York Tribune, 31 May, 1858
  • “News of the Day,” Alexandria (VA) Gazette, Jun. 2, 1858
  • “THe Cobel Abortion Case,” New York Times, Oct. 28, 1858
  • Untitled snippet, Baltimore Sun, Oct. 29, 1858
  • “Alleged Infanticide — Dr. Cobel’s Case on Appeal,” New York Times, 23 May, 1863




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