How often has a coat hanger been used to abort a fetus in America (by self or by another)?

See subject. Cites or attempts at cites.

I recall an article from about the mid-1970’s and the coat-hanger abortion was a cliche even back then. In fact, a lot of alley abortion deaths (as theyw ere called) were by people who had little to incomplete medical training and attempted a standard procedure (scrape the fetus out, I think- the article did not give detail - D&C?). We’re talking about messing around inside with no easy visual guidance, with very sharp instruments. If they messed up, they could cause excessive bleeding and a lot of women in these circumstances died from severe blood loss. Another risk was improper sterilization and severe infection.

Some women tried inducing their own abortions - I recall wire coat hangers and knitting needles mentioned as the most convenient choices at hand. The idea was to rupture the sac so the fetus died and was spontaneously aborted. If this last part failed, or again they poked the wrong spot, then infection set in. The sort that found a “friend who knew someone” were less likely to take the matter into their own hands.

Even if the woman survived the infection, there were good odds the infection caused enough scarring to render her infertile. Plus, the law in most places obliged the medical profession to report any cases where an illegal abortion was indicated, so women often waited until it was too late to seek medical help.

(If you read The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, by Mordecai Richler, in the story Karvitz’s brother the med student got in serious trouble when they discovered he had done an abortion for a friend’s girlfriend… apparently with no ill side-effects. As a medical student he would have the correct tools rather than household accesoriess.)

The recent Caustic Soda series on Abortion implies that coathangers and other tools are used to cause damage to the vagina and uterus in order to compel medical assistance leading to abortion. So hangers are not to abort, but to harm. They don’t have very strong cites, though.

In his autobiographical Motion of Light in Water tells of what happened when his young wife was miscarrying. it took several attempts to get a hospital to admit her (and irrc the intervention of his mother) because they assumed that the very young interracial couple must be there as the result of a botched abortion.

The cases in John Irving’s Cider House Rules were taken from his grandfather Dr. Fritz Irving’s notebook. They include a pregnant ten year old with an infection from a crochet hook in her uterus.

When I went back to school in the late 1980s, I had a classmate who worked in a hospital pathology lab, in a city that had an abortion clinic no less. She said that the most common self-induced abortion method was the hose from a canister vacuum cleaner. :eek: Most of the people who did this were teenage girls, or married women who were likely either in an abusive relationship, or there was a strong possibility that the baby wasn’t her husband’s. She also said those were the grossest things she had to process.