Gatton Murders - Illegal Abortion

Gatton Murders

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The Gatton Tragedy Exposed At Last. An Examination Of The Secrets And Lies.

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Illegal Abortion

Many of us cannot imagine what it was like to need an abortion in the late18 to early 1900ís.

Women who could afford to pay skilled doctors or go to another country had the safest and easiest abortions. Most women found it difficult if not impossible to arrange and pay for abortions in medical settings.

Doctors when asked for an abortion treated women with contempt, their attitudes usually ranging from hostile to insulting. With statements such as, ``You tramps like to break the rules, but when you get caught you all come crawling for help in the same way.''

The secret world of illegal abortion was mostly frightening and expensive. Although there were skilled and dedicated laywomen and doctors who performed safe, illegal abortions, most illegal abortionists, doctors, and those who claimed to be doctors cared only about being well rewarded for their trouble. In the 1960s, abortionists often turned women away if they could not pay $1,000 or more in cash.

Some male abortionists insisted on having sexual relations before the abortion.

Abortionists emphasized speed and their own protection.

They often didn't use anaesthesia because it took too long for women to recover, and they wanted to be away from the women as quickly as possible.

Some abortionists were rough and sadistic. Almost no one took adequate precautions against haemorrhage or infection.

Typically, the abortionist would forbid the woman to contact him or her again. Often she wouldn't know his or her real name.

If a complication occurred, harassment by the law was a frightening possibility.

The need for secrecy isolated women having abortions and those providing them.

In the 1950s, about a thousands of illegal abortions a year were performed in Australia, and hundreds of women died each year as a result.

Women who were victims of botched or unsanitary abortions out of desperation sometimes went to hospital emergency wards for help, where many died of widespread abdominal infections.

Many women who recovered from such infections found themselves sterile or chronically and painfully ill.

The enormous emotional stress often lasted a long time.

Poor women and women of colour ran the greatest risks with illegal abortions. In 1969, 75% of the women who died from abortions (most of them illegal) were women of colour. Of all legal abortions in that year, 90% were performed on white private patients.

In Queensland the penalty is seven years' imprisonment for the woman, 14 years for the abortionist, and three years for supplying or procuring.

A graphic and disturbing below.

The woman in the photo is Gerri Santoro, dead after a botched abortion. In 1964, at the time of her lonely death, Gerri was a mother of two and abortion was a criminal act.

The photo first appeared in MS Magazine in April 1973.

Illegal Abortion