Christina Anderson #1920s #30s #chicago #illinois #illegalmidwife

SUMMARY: Christina Anderson, age 35, died August 6, 1920 after an illegal abortion performed by midwife Emelia Schaffer in Chicago.

On August 6, 1920, 35-year-old Christina Anderson died at Chicago's County Hospital from a criminal abortion. Midwife Emelia Schaffer was arrested for murder, and a woman named Pearl Freese as an accessory. Schaffer was indicted on August 14, but the case never went to trial.

Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1920s.

StealCredit.jpg
The mantra among abortion-rights organizations is that before legalization, the world of abortion was a world of rusty coathangers and untrained quacks. Frankly, it's an insult to the abortion-minded women of yesteryear to assume that they were all so mentally unhinged or utterly mindless. The vast majority sought out professionals of the same caliber they'd go to for any other similar cause. Christina likely would have chosen a midwife for any obstetric issue.

Abortion-rights groups take a very different attitude toward per-legalization versus post-legalization abortion deaths. They dismiss post-legalization deaths with a flippant assertion that "all surgery has risks," but do not accept that the same was true prior to legalization. Surgery was riskier then, so abortion was riskier as well. As the 20th century progressed, all maternal mortality, including abortion mortality, fell as medical care improved. Antibiotics and blood transfusions -- along with overall better health due to increasing prosperity -- deserve the credit for falling mortality, which was hardly caused retroactively by the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling striking down all the nation's abortion laws.

No doubt there was quackery prior to legalization -- but such quackery persists today. Removing the threat of jail for any but the most egregious behavior does not provide motivation to run a tight ship. Three erstwhile criminal abortionists that I know of -- Benjamin Munson, Milan Vuitch, and Jesse Ketchum -- didn't lose a single abortion patient until after legalization made them less fearful of repercussions and thus far more careless. Each went on to kill two legal abortion patients, not out of simple surgical complications, but due to appalling quackery.


For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

Source:Homicide in Chicago Interactive

  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