A Victorian Abortionist on Trial: “Old Doc Andrews” in Toronto





Ransom J. Andrews, a career abortionist in Toronto, stood trial for procuring an abortion in 1885 and nine years later was tried for murder because the Crown alleged he had caused the death of a young woman by performing an abortion on her. The two cases provide a window on the usually hidden social history of abortion in Victorian Canada. Toronto newspapers sensationalized the cases, shaping narratives and interesting readers by depicting the cases as melodramas with such stock characters as the evil abortionist, conniving seducer, and vulnerable single woman. Press coverage of the cases was potentially disastrous not only for Doc Andrews, who faced serious jail time or execution, but also for the women and their families, who saw intimate sexual matters splashed across the front pages of city dailies.

Author Biography

Ian Radforth , University of Toronto

Ian Radforth is Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Toronto.