Martha Alit

SUMMARY: Martha Alit, age 40, died October 16, 1954 after an abortion perpetrated in Seattle by Dr. James Unosawa.

MarthaAlitSeattleTimes20Cot1954.jpgWhen Abortion was Illegal (and Deadly): Seattle’s Maternal Death Toll,” Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project, citing Seattle Times articles published on Oct. 20 and Nov. 10, 1954, Apr. 2, 1956, Mar. 3, 1958, and Jun. 6 and Dec. 9, 1963, has the following to say about Martha’s death:

Born in Juneau, Alaska, she had lived in Seattle for twenty years with her Filipino husband and was already the mother of nine children. Her husband, Felicisimo, was away on Coast Guard duty when she sought the services of Dr. James Unosawa, an Osteopath known to perform abortions. She died in his office. Unosawa had served time in prison after an earlier fatal abortion in 1946. He was convicted again of manslaughter in the death of Martha Alit, but the Supreme Court reversed the decision two years later, holding that the prosecution had not disproved his claim that he was trying to save her life. He would be arrested for a third time in 1963, after another patient required emergency hospitalization. Convicted, he was granted probation after agreeing to stop practicing medicine.

The Project also includes a clipping, “Manslaughter Charged to Osteopath,” from the Oct. 20, 1954 Seattle Times noting that in addition to charges of manslaughter and criminal abortion, he was charged with unlawful removal of a human body by having Martha’s remains sent directly to the mortuary without notifying the coroner. Unosawa, age 64, had perpetrated the abortion in his office.

Unosawa’s previous victim was identified as Beulah LeClair, who had died in 1946.

I also found an article from the Spokane Daily Chronicle, dated Oct. 20, 1954, noting that Martha had died the same day the abortion had been perpetrated.