HomeEditor's PickA Doctor’s Choice: Revisiting the Controversial Tale of ‘Alive or Dead’?

A Doctor’s Choice: Revisiting the Controversial Tale of ‘Alive or Dead’?

When New York woman Caroline Deacon found herself pregnant in 1900, she was a married mother of two and struggling to make ends meet. But her husband was unable to provide the financial support she needed, forcing her to make a choice that would haunt her for the rest of her days. In desperation, she consulted her doctor, who agreed to perform an abortion. However, the story of what happened next is one of the most horrifying abortion tales ever told.

The doctor told Ms. Deacon that he wanted her, “left dead or alive.” She followed his orders, and the abortion was performed. Amazingly, the procedure was successful and the baby was removed alive. But that’s not the end of the story.

Ms. Deacon left the office, believing the baby was dead. She expected to be able to just leave it behind, but what she found when she returned to the office shocked her. The baby was still alive, and the doctor had left it there with a note asking her to take it home “if you want it”.

Unable to provide for a third child, but unable to bring herself to leave the infant alone, she reluctantly took the baby home and cared for him as her own. She always refused to tell her husband of the child’s origin, but named him John.

The rest of the story isn’t quite so traumatic. John grew up to become a successful lawyer, and in 1917 the mother and son were reunited, something that was surprisingly common in those days. John’s mother had given him up for adoption, and the two had both searched for each other for years. They had an emotional reunion and maintained a close bond for the rest of their lives.

Ms. Deacon’s story is particularly heartbreaking because it represents the desperation of a woman in a difficult situation. Abortion was illegal in the early 1900s, leaving women with few choices in the face of a crisis pregnancy. Ms. Deacon was fortunate to survive the procedure, and even more fortunate to eventually be reunited with her son. But her story serves as a reminder that abortion is a complicated and controversial issue with no easy answers.

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