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Chicago, 1928: Abortionist Sentenced to Die
Once upon a time, abortionists ran real risks if they killed patients
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The first man sentenced to die in Illinois's electric chair was not a typical death row inmate: he was a physician whose patient died from complications of an illegal abortion. Reporters covering the case in Chicago contended that Rongetti was the first doctor in the United States ever sentenced to die over a patient's abortion death.

Dr. Amante (or Amenti) Rongetti's death sentence was handed down by a Chicago jury of 11 married men and one widower on March 1, 1928, after three hours of deliberation. Rongetti had been convicted of murder in the abortion death of 19-year-old Loretta Enders. Loretta died on November 16, 1927. Rongetti's scheduled execution date was to be April 13, 1928.

Rongetti reportedly stood stunned and quiet as the sentence was read, but his wife became hysterical, pushing her way through the courtroom crowd crying, "Let me out."

Many factors disclosed in court helped to seal the jury's verdict:

Rongetti's defense claimed that Loretta came to him at his Ashland Boulevard Hospital after having undergone an illegal abortion elsewhere -- a claim that fell flat, considering the lack of proper aftercare.

Witnesses in the case said that they recieved threats to try to intimidate them.

After the sentence was handed down, Rongetti's attorney, Scott Stewart, immediately filed motion for a new trial.

Stuart's bid for a new trial was successful, and the very next year, Rongetti was at large to be implicated in the criminal abortion death of Elizabeth Palumbo, who died May 23 after an abortion performed May 10.

He was tried again for Loretta's death in December of 1929. Rongetti found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to Joliet.

Loretta's abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.


Sources: New York Times 3/2/28, 3/10/28; "Murder", Time, March 12, 1928; Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database; When Abortion Was a Crime, Leslie Reagan, pp. 71-72; People v. Rongetti, Illinois Supreme Court No. 20604, April 23, 1931

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