Story: Abortion

Notorious abortionist

Notorious abortionist

Dunedin chemist James R. Hayne was charged with abortion several times from 1906. At least two women died after seeking his help. Following the death of Violet Ada Atkins in 1921, Hayne was tried three times. Juries were unable to agree on his guilt. In 1923 he was convicted of unlawfully using an instrument to procure a miscarriage. The case came to the attention of police when the woman was hospitalised as a result of the operation.

An article in the New Zealand Truth newspaper gives a sense of how Hayne was viewed:

‘Hayne was a fatalist, and time and again he averred it was not his fate to be caught ... he informed the writer only a short time back that he “would never go to gaol”. Time after number the police were sure they had Jimmy where they wanted him but he always slipped through the net to go back to his practice ... He is without doubt one of the cleverest chemists in New Zealand, and some of his remedies are known from the North Cape to the Bluff. Jimmy backed Fate, but his fancy just failed to see out the race and so now he must pay.’ (New Zealand Truth, 11 August 1923, p. 6.)

Using this item

National Library of New Zealand, Papers Past
Reference: New Zealand Truth, 26 November 1921, p. 5

Permission of the National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Megan Cook, 'Abortion - Illegal but possible: 1840 to 1950s', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 28 May 2024)

Story by Megan Cook, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 8 Nov 2018