Ruth Weir

Ruth Weir1920s, newjersey, infection, illegaldoctorSUMMARY: Ruth Weir, age 26, died on February 16, 1920 from complications of an abortion perpetrated in New Jersey by Dr. Maurice Sturm.

On February 16, 1929, Mrs. Ruth Weir, of East Orange, New Jersey, died at Orange Memorial Hospital of sepsis contracted through a criminal abortion.

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Dr. James R. Chamberlain testified that he had examined Ruth at her home and had admitted her to the hospital due to a septic condition. Dr. James Wilson testified that he had treated Ruth in the hospital during late January and that she was suffering from septicemia.

Dr. Maurice Sturm was arrested and charged with first degree murder when Ruth implicated him in a deathbed statement. Mrs. Frieda Sanger testified that Sturm had sent Ruth to her home to recuperate. Sturm admitted to performing the abortion, but insisted that it had not been illegal because it was necessary to save Ruth’s life.

During the trial, Sturm’s nurse, Gertrude Halloway, responded to questions with answers like, “I don’t know,” or “I don’t remember” until the judge threatened to prosecute her for perjury. She was removed from the courtroom, and her attorney later contacted the District Attorney, requesting immunity in exchange for her testimony. She later admitted that she had lied to protect him and that she had seen him perform the abortion.

The District Attorney claimed that Sturm failed to keep proper records, including concealing names and appointments of patients.

After his arrest, Sturm alleged that District Attorney William D. Ryan and Judge Hanley of the District Court had come to his home and demanded $10,000 or they would prosecute him “to the limit.”

Sturm, who was later acquitted of the manslaughter charge in Ruth’s death, said that that $1000 he had given the judge after DA Ryan’s resignation was a gift and not part of the bribe money.

This case raises several important points we would do well to remember:

  • The majority of criminal abortions were performed by physicians, not amateurs.
  • If the doctor thought the abortion was necessary to save the mother’s life, all he had to do to protect himself from prosecution was keep adequate records.
  • When an abortionist killed a patient before legalization, the law would look at him closely and not shrug the death off as unimportant.

We don’t know if Strum kept poor records on Ruth because the abortion was illegal, or because he was a quack who just kept poor records.


RuthWeir.pngSources:

  • New York Times 3-19-30, 3-31-30, 3-22-30, 3-26-30, 3-27-30, 3-28-30, 4-10-30)
  • “Threatened by Judge, Nurse Confesses She Lied to Save Doctor,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Mar. 29, 1929
  • “Dr. Sturm Indicted In Death of Woman,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Apr. 11, 1929
  • “Judge Named In Physician’s Extortion Tale,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Mar. 25,1930
  • “Nurse Acts as State Witness Against Doctor,” Jamaica (Long Island) Daily Press, undated clipping
  • “Charges Judge Sought Bribe,” Boston Herald, Mar. 26, 1930
  • “Dr. Strum Acquitted of Manslaughter,” Trenton Evening Times, Mar. 28, 1930
  • “Sexual Blackmail: A Modern History,” Angus McLarn, 2002

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  1. 1900s
  2. 1910-1919
  3. 1920s
  4. 1930s
  5. 1940s
  6. 1950s
  7. 1960s
  8. 1970s
  9. 1980s
  10. 1990s
  11. 19th century
  12. 2000-2009
  13. 20s
  14. 30s
  15. 40s
  16. NAF
  17. abortifacient
  18. abortion
  19. abortion mill
  20. abortion mortality
  21. abortionists
  22. abortionists — female
  23. abortionists — male
  24. alabama
  25. anesthesia
  26. arizona
  27. black women
  28. botched abortion
  29. california
  30. chicago
  31. colorado
  32. connecticut
  33. cover-up
  34. death
  35. deaths
  36. deception
  37. delay in transport
  38. delay in treatment
  39. district of columbia
  40. dumped body
  41. ectopic
  42. embolism
  43. falsifying forms
  44. fetal indications
  45. florida
  46. former criminal abortionist
  47. george tiller
  48. georgia
  49. hemorrhage death
  50. hospitals
  51. illegal – doctor
  52. illegal – midwife
  53. illegal – nurse
  54. illegal – paramedical
  55. illegal – post roe
  56. illegal – unknown
  57. illegal – untrained
  58. illegal abortion
  59. illinois
  60. inadequate documents
  61. inadequate equipment
  62. inadequate resuscitation
  63. incomplete abortion
  64. indiana
  65. infection
  66. kansas
  67. legal abortion
  68. llinois
  69. louisiana
  70. maryland
  71. massachusetts
  72. maternal indications
  73. maternal mortality
  74. michigan
  75. mills
  76. missouri
  77. mortality
  78. national abortion federation
  79. new jersey
  80. new mexico
  81. new york
  82. north carolina
  83. ohio
  84. oklahoma
  85. pennsylvania
  86. planned parenthood
  87. pre-roe legal
  88. previous misconduct
  89. prostaglandin
  90. quackery
  91. questionable stories
  92. ru-486
  93. rupture
  94. saline
  95. secret abortion
  96. self-induced
  97. suicide
  98. teens
  99. texas
  100. wisconsin

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