Decades ago, he worked at Harbor General Hospital and what is now L.A. County-USC Medical Center, in their septic abortion wards. Those places, he told me, were full of “the sickest patients,” women who not infrequently died from using coat hangers or knitting needles or radiator flush to induce abortions.
Those, along with equally dangerous back-alley abortionists, were the choices, unless you were rich enough to get to someplace where abortions were safe and legal, like Sweden, where Mishell worked in 1961 and where he got calls from colleagues at home trying to arrange overseas abortions for their pregnant, prosperous patients.
In February 1882, The Times published an account of a young L.A. woman who died after trying to end a pregnancy with carbolic acid. One doctor testified that she had come to him for help, but, he said, “I did not propose to put my head in a noose for the $150 that she offered me.