Louisa Hullsberger

Louisa Hullsberger1860s, pennsylvania, illegaldoctor, 19thcenturySUMMARY: Louisa Hullsburger, age about 22, died in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania in 1863 from complications of an abortion perpetrated by Dr. A. L. Alstead.

On Monday, November 23, 1863, Dr. A. L. Alstead of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to three years and four months in prison, and a fine of $100, for performing the fatal abortion on Louisa Hullsberger, who was about 22 years old. Perhaps to offset the comparatively trivial punishment, Judge Pearson tore into Alstead for his crime against humanity:

  • Forgetting the duties you owe to society, disregarding the commands of God through his revealed will, and the criminal laws of the country, you deliberately and purposely, for wicked gain’s sake, undertook to destroy the foetus or child with which Louisa Hullsburger was then pregnant. By this criminal act, intentionally directed against an embryo human being, you unfortunately took away the life of the mother as well as that of the expected offspring — thus destroying two human beings. had your motives, like those of this poor distressed female, being to conceal your shame, we would have sympathized with and pitied your misfortune, but you have no such excuse. Your motives were mean and mercenary, prompted by a wicked desire for gain. You stated that your regular fee in such cases was twenty dollars, to be paid in advance, thereby proving that the business was habitual; that you followed producing abortions as a regular profession; and the whole evidence shows that you performed this most criminal operation with as much coolness and indifference as you would the meritorious calling of relieving the pain and suffering of any ordinary patient.
  • Not only are such practices abhorrent to law and morals, but are highly unprofessional. The respectable physician turns aside and discards all applications of that character with loathing.
  • The noble profession of which I fear you are an unworthy member, was established to heal the sick and alleviate the sufferings of poor human nature, and when perverted to the base purposes of destroying embryo life, must receive the execration of all well thinking physicians.
  • You well knew at the time of doing this act that you were not only jeopardizing the life of this poor female, but subjecting yourself to punishments in the penitentiary, as you cautioned her to secrecy for fear of that penalty.
  • If not restrained by any sense of moral obligation, or fear of the laws of your country, the danger — the almost certainty of bringing obloquy and disgrace upon your family and kindred, should have operated as an effectual prevention. I sincerely sympathize with the highly respectable family with which you are connected by marriage. I even pity yourself, although we must condemn your errors and transgressions. But pity must not find such a place in the bosoms of those who administer the law as to induce them to overlook a crime like this, or to treat it with leniency. We are not only obliged to punish the perpetrators of crime in order to prevent tis repetition by the particular offender, but also to deter others from lie practices, and we sincerely hope that all physicians who so far forget their professional duties as to take advantage of their professional knowledge to become abortionists, will be deterred by the consequences to you, from pursuing it in future.
  • The poor ignorant female who participated with you in this horrid act has already atoned for her crime by a death of the most excruciating suffering, both of mind and body. We hope that she has obtained forgiveness. You must atone for your transgressions by confinement in the cells of the penitentiary, where reflection will probably produce repentance.

I wouldn’t count on it.

If I have correctly identified Louisa on the 1860 census, she was from a very large family, with two adult Hullsbergers and six young Hullsburgers (including Louisa) ranging in age from 20 down to 2.

n the 1960s, we see the 20th Century downward trend in abortion mortality resumed — until a brief upturn starting in 1968, when some states first started loosening their abortion laws. For more, see Abortion Deaths in the 1960’s.

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

Source: “Sentence of an Abortionist”, Pittsburgh Daily Gazette and Advisor, November 26, 1863

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