An abortion cost $50 in Chicago in 1941.
Kinda cheap—$800 in today’s dollars—considering it was an illegal procedure, performed in secret, condemned by the church at a time when organized religion had even more of a stranglehold on American society than it does now, which is really saying something.
Chicago women back then had abortions anyway, for the same reasons they do now, ranging from medical, financial and emotional necessity. It was a fairly routine procedure in 1941. Your doctor would jot down an address—190 N. State—and you’d hurry to the Gabler Clinic on the 6th floor.
The Gabler clinic had been open since the early 1930s, mostly. It would be periodically raided, only to open again. Leading to the question of how this criminal procedure was performed an average of five times a day in the heart of the Loop for almost a decade.
Therein lies the tale.
One reason religious zealots have such success restricting abortion is that it is seen as affecting only women. So they marshal their zombie army of imaginary babies and send them off to do battle against actual living people—mostly young, poor women—and thus approach the New Jerusalem, in their own minds.
While it is true that women are the primary beneficiaries of abortions, and suffer most when abortion is restricted, they are not the only victims of criminalizing a highly popular medical procedure. With the U.S. Supreme Court taking a case arising from Mississippi’s draconian abortion laws, and Texas’ “Heartbeat Law” criminalizing abortion after six weeks, now seems an apt moment to remember a case that rocked Chicago 80 years ago. A taste of what’s in store for us should the faith-addled fanatics Donald Trump placed on the high court overturn Roe v. Wade.
They called it “The Million Dollar Abortion Ring,” for the nearly 20,000 abortions, at $50 a pop, performed at the Gabler Clinic. The clinic went from open secret to front page news after Detective Daniel Moriarity, a 15-year veteran of the state’s attorney police force, went to 4367 N. Lake Park, pushed past a maid, and fired five shots into what he thought was the sleeping form of Ada Martin, who ran the clinic.
It wasn’t Martin. It was her daughter, Jennie, 24.
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