At about 9 a.m. on July 17, 1901, 23-year-old widow Juliette “Julia” O’Brien, an immigrant from France, died at 3187 Carson Street in Pittsburgh, from complications of an illegal abortion which Julia had told her family had been perpetrated by Dr. Michael A. Arnholt on July 4.
Julia’s brother and sister had been planning to file suit and expose Arnholt’s abortion practice if he did not pay them $5000 in damages to cover the cost of caring for the 21-month-old child the abortion had left an orphan. He reportedly begged them on his knees not to subject him to the ignominy of being exposed as an abortionist. He offered to pay 50 cents a day toward the support of the child rather than the bulk sum but they were firm about the damages.
Julia’s siblings decided to give Arnholt time to think about it, and were to meet with him on July 23 to discuss the situation. However, several hours before the scheduled meeting Arnholt committed suicide in his office by shooting himself through the heart.
Arnholt had been born in Alsace on Christmas Day of 1836 and came to the United States as a teenager in 1849. He attended public schools in Joliet, Illinois and graduated from Ohio Medical College in 1857. He went to Europe in 1858 to study at the Strasburg School of Medicine. He graduated in 1961, then returned to the United States, settling in the Southside area of Pittsburgh.
He had served as a local school director and served in the state Senate from 1881 to 1884. Intensely interested in politics, he had been asked on several occasions to run for Mayor of Pittsburgh.
About two years before Julia’s death, Arnholt began to suffer from liver and stomach troubles but seemed to have been recovering, though is own physician had recommended that he cut back on his work.
“Death Sealed his Troubles,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 26, 1901