The steady fall in abortion deaths during the 20th century resumed during the 1960s after the leveling-off in the 1950s.

A snapshot of what abortion mortality numbers were like during the late 1950s and early 1960s can be found in "Abortion Deaths in California," by Leon Parrish Fox, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology on July 1, 1967

From August 1957 through December, 1965, the five District Maternal Study Committees in California counted a total of 223 abortion deaths (criminal, miscarriages, and undetermined). With California accounting for 323,944 of 1,330,414 reported abortions in 1993 (24%), we can estimate that California likewise accounted for roughly 24% of criminal abortions before legalization.

If claims of 5,000 to 10,000 maternal deaths from criminal abortion alone were correct, California should have been counting 1,200 to 2,400 maternal deaths from criminal abortions alone per year, not including miscarriages.
If California accounted for about 24% criminal abortions, we'd have been seeing 125 deaths from all abortions annually in the United States during the period 1957 to 1965. When you consider that the official toll fell from 260 in 1957 to 90 (total legal, criminal, miscarriages, and undetermined) in 1972, 125 deaths per year in that time period seems pretty accurate.

As states began loosening abortion laws, more women began dying from legal abortions during this time.

News coverage of individual abortion deaths during the 1960s began to be drowned out by coverage of calls for legalization of abortion. Strangely, as abortion deaths became less of a problem, they became more of a cause.

Women's Stories from the 1960sAbortionist and/or facility listed, if known
Explore More by Time Frame
All Deaths by Name
  • Claudette Sayles, July 30, 1960 Age: 23
    • Possibly lay abortionist Mae Etta Scott, Seattle, WA

  • Vivian Grant
    • VivianGrantTN.jpg
    • January 21, 1961 Age: 23
    • Dr. Mandel Friedman, New York
  • Martha Jean Moore, July 18, 1961 Age: 19
    • Lay abortionist Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff Harold Pearl
  • Erika Peterson, July 23, 1961 Age: 28
    • Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA
  • Delores Mae Siddall, August 23, 1961 Age: 29
    • Lay abortionist Hugh McLeod Pheaster, Long Beach, CA


  • Sharon Hoag, February 1, 1963 Age: 20
    • Lay abortionist Lee Blue, Capital Hill, WA
  • Ann Keenan
    • AnnKeenanSmall.jpgOctober 7, 1963 Age: 21
    • Undetermined perpetrator, Detroit, MI


  • Rita Shea, December 4, 1965 Age: 33
    • Dr. Benjamin Lockhart, New York

  • Laura McKee
    • LauraMcKeeTN.jpg
    • January 22, 1966 Age: 19
    • Boyfriend/surgical technician Rodney G. Powers, Newport, KY

  • Raisa Trytiak
    • RaisaTrytiakTN.jpg
    • February 8, 1967 Age: 24
    • Lay abortionist Jack Blight, Washington
  • Elizabeth Staley
    • ElizabethStaleyTN.jpg
    • March 6, 1967 Age: 22
    • Husband Ronald Staley, Olympia, WA
  • **"Sophia"** , December 30, 1967 Age: 19
    • Dr. Benjamin King, Pittsburgh, PA

  • Nancy Ward
    • NancyWard_TN.jpg
    • February 8, 1968 Age: 19
    • Dr. Richard Mucie, Kansas City, MO
  • Stella Saenz, April 13, 1968 Age: 42
    • Unspecified California hospital


* The Colonial Era



A question mark (?) after
a person's name
indicates that there can
be some question of
whether the person
actually perpetrated the

This would include cases
in which a person died
prior to trial, a case
never made it to trial, a
person won a new
trial on appeal, or a
person was acquitted
but I have been
unable to determine why.

In many cases, an
acquittal does not mean
that the person did not
perform the abortion.
In some cases the
jury might have decided
that the abortion was
actually performed
legally and thus the
woman's death was
accident, not homicide.