Clearly Elaine Woo, who wrote the obituary, had a thing for Harvey.
She mentioned the bit of a muck-up with the 1972 Mother's Day fiasco in Philadelphia, when Karman did experimental abortions on a busload of women from Chicago, leaving the bulk of them with dangerous complications. She mentioned briefly that Karman "was part of a humanitarian mission to terminate the pregnancies of 1,500 Bangladesh women and girls who had been raped by Pakistani soldiers", but she failed to mention that as he would later do with the busload of minority women in Philadelphia, he had used the Bangladeshi rape victims as ginuea pigs for his "super coils" -- in this case supplementing them with balsa wood -- and again, leaving his victims with scars and complications.
And though Woo mentions that Karman was arrested and jailed for his criminal abortion practice in California, she fails to mention Joyce Johnson. Karman killed her in 1955, trying to do an abortion on her with a nutcracker.
Women maimed, women used as ginuea pigs, and at least one woman dead. (Many of the women in Bangladesh were lost to follow-up; God alone knows what became of them.) These little trivialities are barely worth a mention in a breathless retrospective of Karman's sorry life. He had an unbridled enthusiasm for abortion. And in the end, to people like Ms. Woo for whom abortion has become an end in itself, the women don't matter. Abortion does. Just as it mattered more than anything else in the world to Harvey Karman.
Woo found others who adored Harvey Karman:
"Harvey Karman did more for safe abortion around the world than practically any other person in the world," said Dr. Malcolm Potts, Bixby professor of Population, Family Planning and Maternal Health at UC Berkeley, who accompanied Karman to Bangladesh 35 years ago.
Potts evidently overlooked the women who ended up with pieces of plastic springs and balsa wood perforating their wombs. Or didn't consider them important.
Dr. Philip Darney, chief of gynecology and obstetrics at San Francisco General Hospital, admitted that the "super coils" were "a bad idea" but added "I don't think that offsets the importance" of Karman's other contributions. He doesn't say whether or not Joyce Johnson was among Harvey's important contributions.
Carol Downer, who co-founded radical "women's health clinics" in Southern California in the 1970s, admitted that "Harvey engaged in some very irresponsible experimentation on women's bodies," but admired Karman as "a real change agent" in promoting cheap, readily available, casual abortions. "I would never take away from the importance of a lot of the work he did," she said.
And Vicki Saporta, head of the National Abortion Federation, gushed that Karman was "responsible for saving the lives of countless women throughout the world through this innovative technology." Joyce Johnson remains invisible, a ghost, just like the women NAF members have killed themselves.
I should pray for Harvey karman, make myself say, "May God have mercy on his soul." But thinking of Joyce Johnson, of the rape victims and the women on the bus, it's a difficult thing.
Maybe we need to split the difference between abortion advocates, who stand ready to worship Harvey for all his tireless efforts to promote abortion in spite of the costs, and those like me, who can do little but look on in disgust and loathing for the very same reason.
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