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Abortionists of the 20th Century

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, merely a sampling of who was and is out there. Dates are approximate dates of abortion practice. The list includes many abortionists who were arrested for killing patients, primarily because that was the most common way a pre-legalization abortionist's name became public record. I present them in roughly chronological order based on the estimated inception of their abortion practices. .

Dr. Albert Littlefield (1890-195?)RS
Littlefield was the first abortionist in Portland, Oregon. His practice, which he turned over to Dr. Edgar Stewart at some point, operated until the 1950's.

Dr. Lucy Hagenow (1896?-1926?)LJR
Hagenow was a Chicago abortionist linked to the abortion deaths of women in 1896, 1899, 1905, 1906, 1907, and (after getting out of prison) 1926. I also have evidence that she killed abortion patients in 1925 (not just once butagain and again and again and again).

Dr. George Lotz (1912?)LJR
Lotz was expelled from the Chicago Medical Society in 1912, after admitting to performing a fatal abortion on 20-year-old Anna Mueller.

Dr. Eva Shaver (1915?)LJR
A young Chicago woman, Anna Johnson, was found dead with a bullet hole in her head on May 26, 1915, in Shaver's home. An investigation uncovered Shaver's abortion practice. Police eventually concluded that Johnson had died from an abortion performed by Shaver, who then shot the girl to disguise the death as a suicide. Shaver was tried for Johnson's death and the abortion death of another patient, Lillie Giovenco.

Ruth Barnett (1920?-1967)RS
The original "Dr. Ruth" developed a fascination with abortion as a teenager, after a prostitute helped her arrange one for herself in 1908. She was a dental assistant before insinuating herself into the Portland, Oregon abortion underworld. Barnett became a naturopath to gain some legitimacy and be able to advertise herself as "Dr. Barnett." Barnett's first run-in with the law came in 1951, due to a dispute with the family of a teenage rape victim over payment for the girl's botched abortion. Barnett's frequency of arrests accelerated over the years and eventually she was run out of business. Despite having earned an estimated nine million dollars during her career as an abortionist, when Barnett died in 1969 at the age of 79, she left an estate of only $14,000.

Dr. Robert Douglas Spencer (1923-1967)CJ
Spencer was the town doctor in the Pennsylvania coal town of Ashton. He's also credited with "more than 40,000 safe, illegal abortions." Spencer was arrested three times, including one arrest after the death of an abortion patient, Mary Davies, but was never convicted. Spencer has become legendary over the years.

Dr. Josephine Gabler (1932-1941)LJR, RS
An abortionist in Chicago, who reportedly did more than 18,000 abortions. Seventy patient records, siezed during a raid, still document Gabler's practice.

Dr. George Cottrell Timanus (192?-1956)LJR, RS
Timanus operated his abortion practice in the Baltimore/Washington area. Timanus was open about his criminal practice, speaking at abortion advocacy conferences and bragging of his record -- 5200 abortions with only two maternal deaths (an amazing record in the days predating antibiotics). Timanus' practice catered to affluent white women. Timanus was one of the first abortionists to try to use his own arrest and trial to challenge the abortion laws; his approach was unsuccessful.

1955 Planned Parenthood Conference
The strangely respectable Dr. Timanus is among the participants.

Dr. Edgar Bass Keemer, Jr. (1938-197?)LJR
Keemer was a Black physician who ran a longstanding abortion practice in Detroit with his wife, who was also a physician. Keemer used the Leunbach's Paste method during its heyday. Like Timanus, Keemer tried to challenge the abortion laws during his own trial, but was unsuccessful.

Dr. Joseph Nisonoff (1942?)NYT
On November 18, 1942, 26-year-old Madeline McGeehan died at Prospect Hospital in New York after an illegal abortion. Arrested were Nisonoff; his nurse, Camille Ewald; his receptionist, Pearl Tense; and Dr. Max J. Weinstein, who was thought to have referred Madeline to Nisonoff.

Dr. Herbert S. Wolfe (1954?)NYT
Wolfe's New York abortion ring was raided by the police on April 4, 1954. There they found Gertrude Pinsky, age 35, dead from septic poisoning from an illegal abortion. Police arrested Florence Cavalluzzo, a resident of the home, and Hugo Francese, an unlicensed physician. Later arrested were Jack M. Werner, owner of Werner Surgical Supplies, and Ignatius Cavalluzzo, Florence Cavalluzzo's son. Dr. Samuel E. Witt was charged with referring women to the abortion ring. Four doctors were charged with referring women and receiving a $30 kickback for each referral: Joseph F. Pacelli, Abraham Cohen, Kalman Molnar, and Poon Lim. Francese and Florence Cavalluzzo were convicted of first-degree manslaughter in Gertrude's death. A police detective, found at the home at the time of the raid, was acquitted.

Harvey Karman (1955-197?)
Karman's colorful career moved him through the highest eschelons of abortion advocacy. Noted accomplishments include inventing the Karman canula and pioneering the "ME" or "Menstrual Extraction" abortion technique. Karman's popularity remained high for years despite -- or perhaps because of -- numerous scandals and arrests, including the death of Joyce Johnson in a motel-room abortion and the 1972 Mother's Day fiasco in Philadelphia.

Dr. Mandel M. Friedman (1961?-1962?)NYT
On January 21, 1961, Friedman contacted a Queens undertaker, asking him to arrange burial for 23-year-old Vivian Grant of New York. Friedman told the undertaker that Vivian had died of a heart ailment. The undertaker notified authorities, who determined that although Vivian had not been pregnant, Friedman had attempted to perform an abortion on her, causing her death. Friedman was again charged with homicide in the 1962 death of Barbara C. Covington, a Florida socialite. Friedman attributed Barbara's death to a heart attack and tried to get an undertaker to arrange a burial. The undertaker reported the case to authorities. Friedman was on bail for the death of Vivian Grant at the time of Barbara's death.

"Jane" (1967-1973)LJR
"Jane" was formed by a group of Chicago laywomen who had originally run an underground abortion facilitation service. When their "doctor" was arrested and exposed as not being a physician after all, the "Jane" members figured that if this man could do abortions, women could do them better. They found a doctor to train them, obtain supplies, and treat complications. The arrest of 7 key "Jane" members in 1972 prompted the remaining "Jane" members to orchestrate the Harvey Karman Mother's Day fiasco in Philadelphia.

Dr. Milan Vuitch (1964-1984)
Vuich challenged the Washington, DC, abortion laws, trying to get them struck down as unconstitutionally vague. Vuitch was an outspoken defender of Jesse Ketchum after the deaths of Margaret Smith and Carole Schaner. After legalization, Vuitch went on to kill two legal abortion patients, Wilma Harris and Georgianna "Jeannie" English. Vuitch was eulogized by abortion enthusiasts when he died in 1993.

Dr. Richard Mucie (1968?-19??)
Mucie ran an abortion practice out of his Kansas City ear, nose, and throat clinic in the late 1960's. In February of 1968, Nancy Ward flew from Oklahoma to Kansas city with her boyfriend for an abortion Nancy's father had arranged. Mucie lacerated Nancy's uterus, resulting in her death. Mucie was convicted of performing an abortion "not necessary to preserve the life" of the mother. He served 14 months then was released on parole. His medical license was revoked in 1971. After Roe v. Wade, Mucie successfully appealed his conviction and got his license restored. He resumed his practice, and was disciplined later by the medical board, but with his death his records were sealed so researchers have thus far been unable to determine what Mucie had been up to.

Dr. Jesse Ketchum (1969?-19??)
As Ketchum's legitimate medical practice went south due to malpractice, he drifted into criminal abortion. By the late 1960's, Clergy Consultation Services was providing Ketchum's Michigan practice with a steady supply of abortion patients. Despite numerous arrests, Ketchum managed not to kill any patients and to stay in business. When New York legalized abortion on demand in 1970, Ketchum shuffled off to Buffalo. There, he won dubious distinction as being the only abortionist known to have killed two hysterotomy patients in less than a year. Ketchum wrangled with the authorities for years but eventually went to prison for the death of the first woman, Margaret Smith of Ypsilanti. (He wasn't charged in Carole Schanner's death.) Ketchum got his license back after his release from Sing-Sing, and he became an anesthesiologist and a ship's doctor for a cruise line. It is unclear whether he ever returned to doing abortions, but he did eventually have his license yanked again after incapacitating a woman he was anesthetizing.

Dr. Jane Hodgson (1970-199?)CJ
A Minnesota abortion activist, Hodgson was convicted in 1970 for performing an abortion on a 23-year old mother who had contracted German measles. She is the only US abortionist ever convicted of performing an illegal abortion in a hospital. Hodgson pushed hard for legalization and continued to do abortions after Roe. She died in October of 2006.

Dr. Jesse J. Floyd (1973? - ????)
Jesse Floyd faced malpractice cass and charges of rape and murder.

Richard Ragsdale (1973?-2007?)
Ragsdale and his wife were indicted on child pornography charges involving their three-year-old foster daughter. He was also sued for malpractice.

Dr. George Elliot Kabacy (19??-2007)
Kabacy pleaded guilty in 2007 to possession of over 8,000 images of child pornography, including pictures showing children involved in bestiality and bondage. Kabacy worked for National Abortion Federation members Lovejoy Surgicenter in Washington and Planned Parenthood of the Columbia- Willamette in Oregon and, up until his arrest, at Sound Choice Health Center in Olympia, Washington.

Dr. Milan D. Chepko (1987?-1990)
Milan D. Chepko was caught with pornographic videotapes involving children as young as four years old.

LJR - Leslie J. Reagan, When Abortion Was A Crime, University of California Press 1997
RS - Rickie Solinger, The Abortionist: A Woman Against the Law, University of California Press 1996
NYT - New York Times archives
CJ - Carole Joffe, Doctors of Conscience, Beacon Press 1995

Related Links
1900 - 1950: Pre-Paradigm Shift
1950 - 1970: The Transitional Period
Abortion & The Medical Profession
Abortion History
Criminal Abortion: The Carnage Begins
Legal Pre-Roe
"More on Illegal Abortion Myths"
National Abortion Federation
"One Woman's Abortion"
PPFA Abortion Conference, 1955
The Truth About Pre-Roe Abortion Mortality
Wanted Poster

Who To Thank For Public Health Miracles

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