In the middle of the nineteenth century, an English immigrant named Ann Lohman, known as Madame Restell, was the city’s most celebrated abortionist, operating out of a four-story townhouse on Fifth Avenue and amassing a $1.5 million fortune. But by the 1870s, Anthony Comstock’s New York Society for the Suppression of Vice was ascendant, the mood of the city had changed, and Restell’s old allies could no longer defend her. In 1878, Comstock posed as a man who had impregnated his lover and entrapped Restell into selling him an abortifacient. Arrested and awaiting trial, the 66-year-old Restell dipped into a tepid bath and slit her throat.
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