Monday, April 21, 2008

1955: Destined to become prochoice icon, Harvey Karman proves his dedication to the cause

During April of 1955 Harvey Karman (pictured) was working at the Clinical School of the Psychology Department of the University of California at Los Angeles, seeking a doctorate in psychology. He was not licensed to practice medicine.

Around early February of 1955, 26-year-old Joyce Johnson told her husband, Ben, that she was pregnant. They discussed an abortion. Joyce had a friend named Patricia who she saw shortly before she met Karman. Prior to the abortion, according to both Patricia and Joyce's husband, Joyce was in good health.

On April 6, 1955, Karman met Joyce in a motel room and, using a speculum, inserted a nutcracker into Joyce in order to perform an abortion.

On April 8, Joyce's husband took her to St. Joseph's Hospital. She was examined by a Dr. Moss who diagnosed her as suffering from "an infected criminal abortion." The dead fetus was still in her uterus. She expelled it while at St. Joseph's.

On April 13, Joyce was transferred to General Hospital for specialized treatment. She died there on April 21. An autopsy was performed, and Joyce's death blamed on bronchial pneumonia brought on by the septic abortion.

Karman's defense called a Dr. Gilbert as an expert. He reviewed the autopsy report and medical records, an opined that Joyce did not die from a septic abortion. He was paid $150 for his testimony, ironically the same amount Joyce paid for the abortion.

The defense also appealed on the grounds that the the DA unduly prejudiced the jury by bringing out in cross-examining Karman that he'd been conviced previously of a felony. The appeals court ruled that this was proper impeachment of a witness.

Karman's defense also argued that Joyce's husband and friend were improperly granted immunity after they originally refused to testify.

Karman's defense also claimed that the prosecution failed to prove that the abortion wasn't necessary to save Joyce's life. But the appeals court found that the testimony of Joyce's husband and friend that Joyce had been in good health, settled that matter. Of course, pure logic would prove that matter, since Joyce was seeking an illegal abortion from a guy like Harvey in a motel room. Had her life been in danger, an ob/gyn would have been able to admit her to a hospital and perform the abortion there.

Karman was convicted of the abortion by a jury. However, he was released from prison when Jerry Brown became governor. His education had been interrputed by the prison sentence, so Karman just vested himself with a PhD from a non-existent European university to make up for lost time. Thus, styled "Dr." Karman, he went on to become quite the prochoice darling, speaking on abortion at various symposia. The "Jane" illegal abortion ring in Chicago had him train them in his abortion technique, and brought him a busload of minority women to experiment on with his "super coil" abortion technique. And it wasn't just homegrown criminal abortionists who embraced Harvey -- the Internataional Planned Parenthood Federation, in concert with the government of Bangladesh, invited Harvey to use rape victims as ginuea pigs as well. Evidently the only qualifications required to be a hero to these people is that you're willing to do the abortion.

For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Karmen was evil and the L.A. Times' obituary was biased and misleading. To read more, go to