Robert Douglas Spencerabortionists, abortionistsmaleDr. Robert Douglas Spencer is largely regarded as a saint among abortion rights activists. He was a country doctor/abortionist. Born in 1889, he was a general practitioner in Ashland, Pennsylvania who began perpetrating abortions around 1920 and committed an estimated 40,000 from then until his death in 1969. He originally charged $5, with the price gradually rising to $100.
He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1915, served in the Army, then worked for a few years in a miner’s hospital, where he helped to develop cutting-edge treatments for black lung disease.
The local residents were aware of his illegal practice, but either tolerated or welcomed it. Many local businesses, after all, benefitted from the out-of-town patients and their companions staying at the hotel, eating at the restaurants, and shopping at the stores.
Spencer was arrested three times, including for the death of abortion patient Mary Davies in 1956, but was never convicted. His first arrests led to acquittals, and he died in 1969 before the third case went to trial.
Spencer’s widow, Eleanor, told Patricia Miller that her husband had been quite stricken by Mary Davies’ death. He continued to perform abortions, however, along with his regular medical practice, up until the trial. He was acquitted on all counts, likely because it was impossible to prove that Mary hadn’t either miscarried during those two weeks of bleeding prior to her appointment with Spencer, or been aborted by somebody else. No mention is made of any fetal remains being found in Mary’s body or in Spencer’s office.
Spencer briefly stopped doing abortions after the trial, “for a month or so,” his widow said. But he resumed his business and eventually got entangled with a fellow named Harry Mace who set up a business for himself rounding up abortion patients and bringing them to Spencer. Spencer’s widow lamented that Mace flooded Spencer with patients, pressuring him to rush through abortions. Spencer’s health began to fail. He was arrested again, due to the attention from Mace’s activities, but died before the case went to trial.
Mary Davies is the only woman known to have died from abortion related complications under Spencer’s care. Spencer is estimated to have performed between 40,000 and 100,000 abortions.