How did illegal abortions spur the push for medical licensing in the 19th Century?

john_t-_hoffman_portrait_by_jacob_lazarus
John T. Hoffman Governor of New York vetoed the medical licensing law in 1872

In late August 1872 in New York City, a young pregnant woman named Alice Augusta Bowlsby read an advertisement in the newspaper for a Dr. Ascher. The advertisement stated that Dr. Ascher could help “[l]adies in trouble, guaranteed immediate relief, sure and safe; no fee required until perfectly satisfied; elegant rooms and nursing provided.”[1] Bowlsby went to Ascher’s office where he performed an abortion. Bowlsby died from Ascher’s botched abortion, and her tragic death provided an opportunity for New York’s organized Regulars to open the debate for medical licensing.

Bowlsby’s death captured the attention of the New York Times and the New York Herald because the details of her death were incredibly salacious. After Bowlsby died, Ascher attempted to hide the woman’s death by shipping her body in a ramshackle trunk to Chicago by train. After an alert railroad employee searched the trunk, police authorities were quickly contacted and conducted an autopsy on the body. The coroner determined that the young woman died from several “severe lacerations” that “had been sustained in the attempt to affect an abortion.” The police quickly ascertained the identity of the young women and tracked down Jacob Rosenzweig, a 39-year-old Polish physician. The police learned that Rosenzweig practiced in New York City under the name Dr. Ascher.[2]

Read the rest of the article at DailyHistory.org.

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Author: sandvick

I have a PhD in United States History and I am a legal refugee. I run a history wiki called DailyHistory.org and the blog Dailyhistoryblog.com.

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