Blogger’s note: In June I wrote two posts about a controversial 1930 trial in which a Fort Myers doctor was tried for manslaughter in the wake of the death of a popular high school teacher who died after an abortion.
Dr. John Agnew, a friend, writer and retired physician, read both posts and sent me an email. His insight as a doctor is so compelling I feel I must share his comments, which are posted below:
The teacher’s name was Doris Virginia Long. She died from what was then called an “illegal operation.”
The 1930 Fort Myers Abortion Trail, Part 1 was posted on June. 19. Part 2 was published on June 13.
Glenn, my personal thanks for finding the old story and bringing it to light again.
She probably died of peritonitis, secondary to perforation of the uterus, which would be apparent by examining the uterus in a bottle. They had no antibiotics, not even sulfa.
I find it incredible that no autopsy was done (or mentioned anyway). The medicolegal autopsy was well established in 1930. No toxicology then, but good microscopes and microbiology techniques.
I think the 141 abortions on high school girls was entirely fabricated. Like modern times!
The “stomach trouble” the doctor died with would likely have been a duodenal ulcer that perforated. Back then, 10 percent of the population had ulcer problems. No longer true because of improvements in the water supply.
I can speak to desperation. I was in school until 1959, working in “Dirty OB” in DC General Hospital in 58-59. That was a building in which pregnant women with an infection – any infection – were treated. These included women with “back alley” abortions. They knew the risks, which were considerable, because they were aware of what happened to other women in the neighborhood.
They would have a fever of 107 degrees, be dripping sweat, have a blood pressure of 30/0 and no urine output. We had antibiotics, but not the number and power of those available today. It was just appalling to watch them die. Truly gut-wrenching for a 25-year-old idealist.
I think abortion is wrong in general, but you have to respect the desperation and determination of these unfortunate women dying alone. Always alone.