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How a 1947 Abortion Killed an Heiress and a Doctor
In an illegal abortion, the accomplices shared the risks.
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At 11 AM on October 17, 1947, Dr. Paul Singer, a gynecologist, called police and reported that a woman had come to his office suffering from an incomplete abortion.

He said that he had taken 22-year-old Jane Ward, heir to the Drake Bakeries fortune, to Park East Hospital, where Dr. Oswald Glasberg, a plastic surgeon, had helped him to complete the abortion.

Jane died on October 28, and the autopsy confirmed the cause of death as criminal abortion.

After the death, Singer and Glasberg were arrested and released on bail. The baby's father, Eduardo Schneidewind, a trade promotion executive for a South American government, was questioned as a material witness but was never indicted.

Dr. Alejandro Ovalle, an X-ray technician, was sentenced to one year after pleading guilty as an accessory, having profited from abortion referrals.

Singer was convicted of manslaughter in Jane's death, and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison. The judge, Francis L. Valente, said that Jane had been subjected to "surgical mayhem," and that Singer and Glassberg were "completely devoid of human feeling and decency."

Glassberg was also convicted and sentenced to prison, but was never sentenced because six hours after the verdict on June 14, 1948, Glassberg committed suicide in his cell, having poisoned himself.

Singer appealed his conviction, which was upheld.

Jane Ward's tragic death underscores points we would do well to remember:

  • If illegal abortion was a privilege of the wealthy, so was illegal abortion death.
  • Most illegal abortions were performed by doctors, not by amateurs.
  • Having a doctor do your abortion doesn't mean you'll survive it.
  • In illegal abortions, the abortionist and his accomplices faced some risks themselves; the woman wasn't the only person facing any risks.


    Sources: New York Times 11-15-47, 11-29-47, 3-26-48, 7-15-48, 11-5-48, 11-30-48, 12-30-49, 1-10-50

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