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Mrs. Frank Lafavor, Illegal Abortion Death
Who gave this young bride the deadly abortifacient?
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Mrs. Lafavor, the 15-year-old wife of Frank Lafavor, was "the victim of ... inhuman outrage". Her father, Samuel Shearer, was "a worthy and respectable farmer of this vicinity." Frank had married his young bride over the objections of her family in March of 1870.

The couple had settled as tenants on the farm of Thomas McIntyre.

On August 15, Frank went with McIntyre to Rushford with two loads of wheat, leaving Mrs. Lafavor feeling unwell. She left the home herself at about 7 a.m. "The neighbors became alarmed at her absence from home and made search for her in every direction without success" until about midnight, "when she was discovered dragging herself around the corner of her dwelling more dead than alive."

The neighbors took her to the McIntyre house and summoned medical aid. Two doctors came to her aid, Dr. Thomas and Dr. Case. The found her to be in critical condition, examined her, and and asked her if she had undergone an abortion. She admitted that she had taken some sort of abortifacient that day, but refused to say who she had gotten it from.

"Everything possible was done to restore her, but after suffering intensely for a whole week and died on Tuesday morning last [August 23] at about eight o'clock."

The neighborhood had been agog since the events first started unfolding. The day after Mrs. Lafavor's death, the coroner and coroner's jury arrived at the McIntyre home to perform the inquest. Dr. Thomas and Dr. Case came to perform the autopsy.

Mrs. Lafavor's mother testified that her daughter was raised up in bed five minutes before her death to make her dying declaration, but all she was able to say ws, "Tommy gave it to me! Tommy gave it to me!"

Thus the young bride's landlord, Thomas McIntyre, was charged with her death.

I have no information on overall maternal mortality, or abortion mortality, in the 19th century. I imagine it can't be too much different from maternal and abortion mortality at the very beginning of the 20th Century.

Note, please, that with issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good.

For more on this era, see Abortion Deaths in the 19th Century.

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

Source: "A Case of Abortion Resulting in Death", Winona Daily Republican, August 29, 1870

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