Mary Francis Falls

Mary Francis Falls, the 18-year-old wife of Leo Falls, a solder stationed in France, died on December 14, 1917 from peritonitis. Dr. Hugh White signed her death certificate on December 15, giving her cause of death as “general peritonitis” and “miscarriage” as a contributing factor.

Mary Francis’s mother, Mrs. Stringfield, told police that her daughter had actually died from complications of an abortion perpetrated on November 15 by Dr. John C. Dysart in El Paso. She testified that she had been opposed to the abortion.

Leo’s sister, Mrs. L. Bailey, testified that after Mary Francis had died, Dysart had prepared a paper for all the concerned parties to sign stating that they would not press for prosecution if he covered the costs for Mary Francis’ treatment and funeral expenses.

During Dysart’s trial for murder by abortion, Dr. Hugh White testified that Mary Francis had called him about two weeks before her death, saying that she had malaria. Dr. White doubted this and said that he later discovered that his suspicions were correct and that his patient was suffering complications from an abortion. He performed the post-mortem examination and found pus throughout her abdomen. I have been unable to determine why he did not indicate a criminal abortion on Mary Francis’s death certificate.

Dysart’s defense was that he had only treated Mary Francis for complications of a self-induced abortion.

Dysart was acquitted on the murder charge after five hours of deliberation. Another unspecified charge was not dismissed.

MaryFallsEl_Paso_Herald_Tue__May_28__1918_.jpgSources:

  • “Dr. White Gives Testimony In Dr. Dysart Case,” El Paso Herald, May 25, 1918
  • “Two Jurors Lacking To Start Trial Of Dr. Dysart, 34th Court,” El Paso Herald, May 24, 1918
  • “El Paso Doctor Arrested On An Abortion Charge,” El Paso Herald, Apr. 22, 1918
  • “Dysart Case Soon to Jury,” El Paso Herald, May 27, 1918
  • “Get 5 Out Of 48 Men to Start Trial Of Dr. Dysart,” El Paso Herald, May 23, 1918
  • “Dr. Dysart Acquitted On First Charge; Another Yet;” El Paso Herald, May 28, 1918
  • death certificate

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