June 12, 1907: Woman Dies After Abortion, but Leaves Statement Against Doctor

Note: This is an encore post from 2006.

June 12, 1907
Los Angeles

At 19, Florence Grover was old enough to be in love and living with a man, and at 19, she was old enough to become a mother. Her boyfriend, L.C. Lutzen of the National Messenger Service, with whom she lived at 120 N. Broadway, testified that he had made preparations to raise their child as his own.

Instead Florence sought out Dr. C. Van Peter Watson. On May 28, she took a streetcar to his home at 2652 W. Pico. When she left 30 minutes or an hour later, she was so weak that she couldn’t walk and someone sent for a carriage.

“Before her death, she tried to sign a statement, prepared by the physicians attending her, after it had been read to her: ‘Realizing that I am about to die, I certify that an abortion was to be performed and was performed on me by Dr. C.V.P. Watson,’ ” The Times said. “She became too weak to finish her signature.”

Watson was brought to trial—in fact he was also charged with a variety of offenses regarding land swindles involving Ollie J. Watkins. The Times described him as walking with a cane because he was handicapped and said he wore a Masonic pin and another badge showing that he was a Civil War veteran.

But the judge regretfully ruled that Florence’s statement was inadmissible.

“There is nothing in the statement partly signed by that poor, dying girl to show just what this defendant did. For some incomprehensible reason the statement was not even prepared in the presence of the girl. The physicians, not realizing what constitutes legal evidence, or swayed by professional ethics, failed to comply with the requirements of the law,” the judge said.

“The court regrets very much that the evidence is not conclusive, as to who was the perpetrator of that crime, that it might be legally fastened upon him and justice be done.

“With the infirmities of the testimony and in view of all the painful and abhorrent features of the case, I do not believe there is a court in the state that would permit the question to go to a jury.

“The defendant is discharged and the bail will be released.”

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1907, Abortion, Black Dahlia, Crime and Courts, LAPD, Medicine, Streetcars and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to June 12, 1907: Woman Dies After Abortion, but Leaves Statement Against Doctor

  1. Weird and sad. You wouldn’t think a real doctor would do such a botched job (according to Sinclair Lewis’ “Ann Vickers,” there were competent physicians performing abortions at that time, though it was hard to find them). I wonder if Lutzen’s statement is the whole truth.


Leave a Reply. Note: Your IP is logged with your comment so a fake name and email address are useless.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s