An expose from 1947: Smashing Denver’s Abortion Racket!

In the early 1940s, Denver was considered the nation’s “abortion capital.” A new district attorney set out to shut it down.

staff photo

In the early 1940s, Denver was considered the nation’s “abortion capital.” A new district attorney set out to shut it down with the help of a hard-bitten investigator.

I came across this clip in the files of the Denver Public Library’s Western History Collection while researching the legalization of abortion in Colorado. The change in the law in 1967 was driven in part by the high toll that illegal abortion took, a toll that is described in great detail in this expose from 20 years earlier.

Most often, Frances Melrose wrote in the Rocky Mountain News, the women involved were wives, not “delinquent girls,” and this was a very tough crime to solve, as everyone involved had a strong incentive not to talk.

The investigators describe their questioning of dying women as “gentle but persistent.” Historians of abortion say that some investigators would withhold medical care from women until they named names.

This clip comes from the files of the Denver Public Library’s Western History Collection. You can zoom in for a closer look.

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