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Belle Wertz
Funeral turns into inquest, reveals abortion
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In October of 1874, Belle Wertz left her home in Miami, Ohio, near Cincinnati. She had told her family that she planned to visit some friends in Greensburg, Indiana.

In December, her father was summoned to Greensburg with the news that Belle had died. She had been attended by Dr. Hilt, who said that she had died from inflammation of the bowels.

By the time her father had arrived in Greensburg, Belle's body had been transported to Cincinnati, and from there to Miami.

"Suspicions of foul play were aroused, but nothing was done until the funeral was progressing. While in the church the excitement increased and the ceremonies were stopped. A jury was empaneled and an inquest was held on the spot. About midnight the examination of the witnesses was concluded, the chuch was closed, and a post mortem examination was made, which proved that Belle Wertz' death had been caused by an abortion. The examining physicians state that it was a bungling and brutal operation, and must have resulted in speedy death, as the organs were terribly ruptured and lacerated."

Dr. Hilt was charged as the principal in the death, with Belle's lover, sister, and nephew were charged as accessories.

Lest anybody attribute the brutality of Belle's abortion to its illegality, I remind my readers of the horrible safe, legal deaths suffered by Magdalena Rodriguez, Guadalupe Negron, and Carolina Gutierrez. Legalization protects quacks from prosecution; it does diddly-squat to protect women from quacks.

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:
  • "Ohio: Another Abortion-Murder", Winona Daily Republican December 22, 1874

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