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.

Smashing Denver's Abortion Racket! Rocky Mountain News. 1947

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. If you click on it, it will open in a new tab, and it’s easier to zoom in.

Library Document Station

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.