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"Chloe" Roe, Criminal Abortion Death
Like Vuitch, used home as annex to his abortion business
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A young woman, unnamed in court documents, met an untimely end some time around 1930. I will call her "Chloe", and her lover "Fred".

Milton A. Grissom, a dentist, was hired as an abortionist by Fred, the father of Chloe's baby, for $200 -- a promissory note secured by Chloe's car. Fred witnessed the abortion and testified to it.

The abortion was done in Grissom's office. Grissom then took Chloe to his home for several days -- much the same way prochoice icon Milan Vuitch would later treat his home as an abortion clinic annex. While at Grissom's home, Chloe she expelled a dead 7-month fetus. She was taken to the hospital, near death. Grissom was immediately arrested.

Grissom's black satchel full of obstetric instruments was seized as evidence. Fred testified that it was the satchel he had seen Grissom with, and that several of the instruments were those used in the abortion on Chloe. Grissom objected to the admission of the satchel and instruments, on the grounds that it would present him to the jury as an abortionist. Grissom particularly objected to the admission of an extract of ergot, a drug that has no dental use but an obstetrical use for stopping hemorrhage after childbirth or abortion. Grissom pointed out that he had not used the ergot on Chloe; the court argued that having it showed a pattern of behavior indicative of performing abortions.

While Chloe's body was in the mortuary, somebody -- presumably Fred -- reported to the sheriff that Chloe's diamond ring was missing. The sheriff went to the jail where Grissom was being held, and asked Grissom about the ring. Grissom denied having any ring other than the ring he was wearing. When the sheriff searched him, he found Chloe's ring in Grissom's pocket. Grissom objected to this being presented at trial as being prejudicial, but the state asserted that it showed a financial interest. It was presumed that Grissom took the ring from Chloe's finger after her death.

The court, in turning down Grissom's appeal, noted, "It happens in this case that the evidence of appellant's guilt was so strong and complete that there was little need of proving his possession of the ring...."

His appeal was denied.

Chloe's abortion was unusual in that it was performed by a non-physician with medical training. It was far more common for women to find physician abortionists.

Illegal by Doctors Illegal by Paramedical Illegal by Amateurs Self Induced

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 1930s.

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

Source: 35 N.M. 323, 298 P. 666 State v. Grissom. No. 3568

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