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Prison Letters of a 'Back-Street Abortionist'

 
Prison Letters of a 'Back-Street Abortionist' by HILL, William Ernest (1970)
Author: HILL, William Ernest
Title: London Back-Street Abortionist: An Archive
 
Year: 1970
Publisher: Unpublished
Place: London
Dust Jacket: No
Signed: No
 
Price: £1950
 
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Added under Manuscripts  

One hundred autograph letters, court documents and personal items from a convicted and prolific 1960s London 'back-street abortionist' who was sentenced to five years in gaol for 'unlawfully administering certain noxious things to [name withheld] on the 9th May 1970 with intent to procure miscarriage' In addition to Hill's very substantial archive of letters from Maidstone Prison and Wormwood Scrubs there are three long typed first hand transcripts in which give William Hill, his wife (similarly charged but case dismissed) and their daughter provided candid accounts of the events to their solicitors. In Hill's revelatory testimony the abortionist describes himself as 'a person who is known as pleased to help people in trouble and this is how I became involved in illegal abortions.' He admits 'that I gave tablets to [name withheld] but I deny that I used a wax taper to procure her miscarriage.' Running to about 2000 words, Hill describes his illegal activities which took place in the immediate aftermath of the 1967 Abortion Act which legalised abortions by registered practitioners: 'I admit I have done abortions. I use manipulation, and have been trained in this though not formally. I am confident my methods are safe... I regarded myself as skilled, but not a professional' going on to describe the specific offence in terms for his lawyer's eyes only. He states that the first he heard of this particular case was through a telephone call saying '"There's a young girl in trouble --have you got pills" I said "bring her up and I'll see if I can help her out."' After recounting what happened at his house on 9th May, 1970, Hill concludes the document with the unfounded claim that he was framed 'It is my firm though unproven belief that someone "touched" [name withheld] with a view to putting the blame on me. I would like to say this in Court but for the fact that I will reveal fully the extent of my knowledge about abortions which may not help me.' In the ensuing court case, Regina v. Hill, the jury disagreed and Hill was sentenced to 5 years (reduced to 3 on appeal), serving time in H.M.P. Longport, Maidstone and Wormwood Scrubs from where he wrote 97 letters on prison headed paper between November 1970-January 1972. In this correspondence Hill dwells upon his conviction, his previous life, plans and above all his wife and family, emerging from this correspondence as both bully and self-pitying victim. Despite his incarceration Hill attempts to control his family from prison, endlessly reworking the circumstances of the abortions in his pre-appeal letters 'how the pills did it and nothing had to be worked on them, only pills remeber [sic] them I give them to the way Dot said it. I wasn't in it for the £, S, D remeber [sic]' Every letter contains at least one appeal to his wife to remain faithful to him while he is inside and he reveals an obsession with his daughter's sexuality, advising her: '[name withheld] girl it is hard to find the words but you know what I mean don't be a fool, it would kill me', counselling against a particular boyfriend, 'remeber [sic] love he robbed you of your innocence' (16 Dec 70), and warning her that 'you know a girl can soon get name of Old Boot...' Self interest runs throughout with the reminder to his wife to 'get on to the solicitor about my appeal' and though Hill's correspondence begins to show some remorse he maintained throughout his essential innocence:'Over the years the shocks that I have endured have begun to blend into one long steady hammering and perhaps that is why I can't remember a worse jolt than the one I got when I got 5 years for helping someone...' (27.4.1970)
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