Back Alley Abortions

My great grandmother had 6 children. When she got pregnant the seventh time in 1907, she decided to have an abortion, apparently illegally in Chicago. Her death certificate from that year lists "Sepsis" as the cause of death. My great grandfather was left with the care of the other children. Unfortunately, he died in 1912, leaving them to be cared for by an orphange run by the oddfellows in central illinois.

On a personal level, I am against abortion. However, I realize that because it was at the time delegated to back-alley status, my personal pre-history was forever altered 53 years prior to my birth. I feel if people insist on an error, we only compound the error when we forbid something outright. I know there are many that would say "just desserts", but did that make any sense for the other innocent children?

Just a thought,



Dear JH,

Thank you for taking the time to write. That is certainly a tragic story; I have a hard time imagining something worse than a mother dying while aborting her baby.

I've been trying to find some reliable studies on how often it happened before 1973 and what the medical conditions were. From Dr. Nathanson's book I got the impression infections (due to unsterile equipment and incomplete abortions) were somewhat common, but I really don't know. Do you have any research on that? Recently I was reading a book which indicates it is happening more often than people imagine in today's abortion clinics.

It seems to me there could be some common ground between "pro-life" and "pro-choice" in working for meaningful regulations within the parameters of legalized abortion. I say this particularly in light of your statement: "On a personal level, I am against abortion." What do you think, JH?

Fr. Phil Bloom

Article on Back Alley Abortions

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