Jane Ward1940s, illegaldoctor, 20s, newyorkSUMMARY: Jane Ward, age 22, died on October 28, 1947 after an abortion perpetrated in New York by Dr. Paul Singer.
At 11 AM on October 17, 1947, Dr. Paul Singer, a gynecologist, called police and reported that a woman had come to his office suffering from an incomplete abortion. She reportedly had staggered in, “slumped over with her head down on her chest.” Singer said she lapsed into a coma while he was beginning his examination.
He said that he had taken 22-year-old Jane Ward, heir to the Drake Bakeries fortune, to Park East Hospital, “almost pulseless — lifeless — she was almost dead.” Dr. Oswald Glasberg, a plastic surgeon, had helped him to complete the abortion.
Jane died on October 28, and the autopsy confirmed the cause of death as criminal abortion.
After the death, Singer and Glasberg were arrested and released on bail. The baby’s father, Eduardo Schneidewind, a trade promotion executive for a South American government, was questioned as a material witness but was never indicted. He said that he had arranged the abortoin through Ovalle, paying $2,000. Ovalle then gave Glassman $900.
Dr. Alejandro Ovalle, an X-ray technician, was sentenced to one year after pleading guilty as an accessory, having profited from abortion referrals.
Singer’s first trial ended in a mistrial when one juror fainted during testimony regarding Jane’s injuries.
Singer was eventually convicted of manslaughter in Jane’s death, and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison. The judge, Francis L. Valente, said that Jane had been subjected to “surgical mayhem,” and that Singer and Glassberg were “completely devoid of human feeling and decency.”St. Petersburg Times, Nov 21, 1948Glassberg was also convicted and sentenced to prison, but was never sentenced because six hours after the verdict on June 14, 1948, Glassberg committed suicide in his cell, having poisoned himself.
Singer appealed his conviction, which was upheld.
Jane Ward’s tragic death underscores points we would do well to remember:
- If illegal abortion was a privilege of the wealthy, so was illegal abortion death.
- Most illegal abortions were performed by doctors, not by amateurs.
- Having a doctor do your abortion doesn’t mean you’ll survive it.
- 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.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion
New York Daily News, Nov. 30, 1947
- “2 Doctors Deny Guilt in Girl’s Death,” New York Daily News, Nov. 30, 1947
- “Jury Disagrees in Second Trial of New York Doctors,” The Kingston (NY) Daily Freeman, Mar. 25, 1948
- “Doctors Jailed in Girl’s Death,” St. Petersburg Times, Nov 21, 1948
- “Doctor Testified Girl’s Condition Was Serious,” Kingstown (NY) Daily News, Mar. 12, 1948
The Kingston (NY) Daily Freeman, Mar. 25, 1948
- 19th century
- abortion mill
- abortion mortality
- abortionists — female
- abortionists — male
- black women
- botched abortion
- delay in transport
- delay in treatment
- district of columbia
- dumped body
- falsifying forms
- fetal indications
- former criminal abortionist
- george tiller
- hemorrhage death
- illegal – doctor
- illegal – midwife
- illegal – nurse
- illegal – paramedical
- illegal – post roe
- illegal – unknown
- illegal – untrained
- illegal abortion
- inadequate documents
- inadequate equipment
- inadequate resuscitation
- incomplete abortion
- legal abortion
- maternal indications
- maternal mortality
- national abortion federation
- new jersey
- new mexico
- new york
- north carolina
- planned parenthood
- pre-roe legal
- previous misconduct
- questionable stories
- secret abortion