Katherine Cross

Katherine Crossoklahoma, illegaldoctor, teens, 1890s, 19thcenturySUMMARY: Katherine Cross, age 18, died October 10, 1917 after an abortion perpetrated in Seminole County, OK by Dr. Abraham H. Yates.

The Seminole County News in Oklahoma reported that Katherine died October 10, 1917, from a “criminal operation” performed by Dr. A. H. Yates and his assistant, a schoolteacher named Frederick O‘Neal. Katherine, who had been born in August of 1899, was 18 years old.

Katherine was the second victim Yates was charged with murdering by abortion in as many months. Elise Stone had died in August.

Another source, “The Human Wolves of Konawa,” goes into much greater detail about Katherine’s life and death. What follows is from that article.

Katherine was the oldest of the eight children of John and Mary Cross, who had moved to Oklahoma from Arkansas with their large family. They were a farming family.

The day after Katherine’s funeral, the case made the front page of the Shawnee Daily News-Herald under the headline, “Under Bond, Dr. Yates to Face Murder Charge; Konawa Physician Arrested Following Death of Katherine Cross; Charge Death Result Criminal Operation; Doctor Is Brought to This County for Safe Keeping.”

Katherine’s parents told officials about the entire tragic turn of events. Yates reportedly bullied Katherine’s mother into consenting to the abortion by saying that Katherine was threatening to kill herself.

Eleven years after Katherine’s death, her parents were approached by political rivals of the county sheriff, Fred Bowles, convincing them to sign an affidavit accusing him of complicity in the abortion that took their daughter’s life. Bowles’s rivals were found guilty of libel and slander and were jailed for a year and fined $1,000 each.

There is no follow-up in newspapers about the case against Yates. After their daughter’s death, Katherine’s family moved away from the area to a farm about 100 miles southwest of Konawa, Yates died at the age of 64 in 1931, and is buried in the same cemetery as Katherine, within sight of the maker inscribed, “Murdered by human wolves.”

Katherine’s abortion was typical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

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 information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.

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


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