Eunice McElroy

Eunice McElroy20s, 1920s, chicago, illinois, illegaldoctorSUMMARY: On November 14, 1928, 21-year-old Eunice McElroy died in Chicago from complications of a criminal abortion perpetrated by Dr. Thomas J. Ney.

EuniceMcElroy.pngEunice McElroy
On November 14, 1928, 21-year-old stenographer Eunice McElroy died in Chicago from complications of a criminal abortion.

The coroner’s office undertook an intense investigation, including a very graphic questioning of Eunice’s 19-year-old sister, Julia. Julia was asked about Eunice’s dating, sexual behavior, and menstruation. This last she was expected to have intimate knowledge of because, as was customary at the time, the sisters shared a bed. However, Julia hedged and refused to answer many questions during the inquest, until she was threatened with prosecution herself for failing to cooperate with the investigation. Under this pressure, on the final day of the inquest, Julia cracked. She admitted to having adhered to the story Eunice had herself concocted as a cover-up to protect the abortionist.

ThomasNeyHeadshot.pngThomas NeyOn July 24, 1931, Dr. Thomas J. Ney was indicted by a grand jury for felony murder in Eunice’s death and prosecuted. In the mean time, he was also fingered in the abortion death of Elma Bromps. Ney had dragged out the case by obtaining at least 27 continuances. I’ve not been able to determine if Ney was ever tried in Eunice’s death. News clippings on the death of Elma Bromps do mention Eunice’s death and efforts by law enforcement to bring Ney to justice.

Julia McElroy was wanted as a witness in Elma’s death as well, though I’ve been unable to determine if she was wanted merely to testify that Ney had a history of perpetrating abortions or if she was believed to have been involved in Elma’s fatal abortion as well. Julia eluded police for a while but eventually did attend the trial, though she did not testify.

JuliaMcElroy.pngJulia McElroyDuring Ney’s trial for Elma’s death, Eunice’s mother, Bessie McElroy, testified that when attending to ailing abortion patients, Ney would send an assistant out to fill a prescription, purportedly for a sedative. He would then inject the patient with a drug that would kill rather than cure the patient. Mrs. McElroy was expected to testify that this had happened with nine of Ney’s patients, though how she would be privy to that information is not indicated.

Ney had also been implicated in the 1926 abortion death of Willie Pearl Walker.

Eunice’s abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

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


  • Leslie J. Reagan, When Abortion Was a Crime
  • Homicide in Chicago Interactive
  • “Doctor Held on Charge of Murder by Abortion,” Chicago Daily Tribune, December 1, 1928
  • “Doctor Given 15 Years for Girl’s Death,” Chicago Tribune, Jul. 23, 1931
  • “Doctor on Trial After He Dodges Justice 3 Years,” Chicago Tribune, Jul. 21, 1931
  • “Dr. Guilty of Murder in Abortion Case,” Daily Independent, Jul. 23, 1931
  • “Witness Missing in Manslaughter Case,” Decatur (IL) Herald, Jul. 22, 1931
  • “Girl, Main Witness In Murder Case, Lost,” Dixon (IL) Evening Telegraph, Jul. 22, 1931


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