Emma Laisure

SUMMARY: Emma Laisure, age 27, died during an abortion in the Chicago office of Dr. Nathaniel Schafner on July 7, 1941

On July 7, 1941, 27-year-old mother of two Emma Dietrich Laisure went to the office of Dr. Nathaniel H. Schaffner in Chicago. Her husband, Earl, had made the arrangements and paid Schaffner $40 for an abortion.

Emma died at Schaffner’s office before he could even complete the abortion. Earl said that Schaffner warned him to “say nothing about it to anyone.” Schaffner kept Emma’s body for 8 hours, evidently waiting for Earl to come for it, before finally taking it to the family home.

To compound the tragedy, Emma died on the couple’s seventh wedding anniversary.

Schaffner insisted during his trial that though Earl had offered him $40 to perpetrate the abortion, he had refused and Emma had shown up later, in severe pain, and died of a heart condition before he could even finish examining her.

The jury didn’t believe him. Schaffner was convicted of murder and sentenced to 14 years in prison. He appealed his sentence but it was upheld in 1943.


  • “Chicago Police Grill Doctor in Death of Woman,” Belvidere (IL) Daily Republican, Jul. 8, 1941
  • “Start Abortion Death Trial of Dr. Schaffner,” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 29, 1942
  • “Dr. Schaffner Denies Part in Fatal Abortion,” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 31, 1942
  • “Physician Gets 14 Year Term in Abortion Death,” Chicago Tribune, Mar. 24, 1942
  • “Jurors Convict Dr. Schaffner in Abortion Death,” Chicago Tribune, Feb. 3, 1942
  • “State to Close Case Today in Abortion Death,” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 30, 1942
  • “Court Upholds 14 Year Abortion Death Sentence,” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 20, 1943

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