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Merl Williams
Midwife charged with murder
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On April 24, 1937, Miss Merl Williams of Watonga, Oklahoma, died of peritonitis. She was 21 years old. Her death was attributed to a botched abortion.

A midwife, Mrs. Cordelia Moore, was charged with abortion murder. An investigation found evidence that Moore had performed hundreds of abortions.

After her arrest, Moore "unworriedly set her glasses on the end of her nose and continued her quilting in the county jail." She was tried for the crime; her husband, John, was arrested but released.

W. C. Mouse, a railroad engineer, testified that he had taken Merl to Moore's home on April 11, not knowing the reason for the visit. He had heard Merl ask Moore, "Will it be dangerous?"

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: "State to Help Push Charge on Abortion", The Oklahoman, June 1, 1937; "Officer Seeks 11 Patients in Abortion Quiz", The Oklahoman, May 1, 1937; "Mrs. Moore is Bound Over on Murder Count", The Oklahoman, May 14, 1937

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