Friday, December 30, 2022

December 30, 1967: Retroactively Safe and Legal

"Sophia," age 19, traveled from Youngstown, Ohio, to Duquesne, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on December 27, 1967 to have an abortion performed by 50-year-old Dr. Benjamin King. King also had medical offices in both McKeesport and Homestead.

Sophia was a 19-year-old freshman at Ohio State University. She had gotten King's contact information from her boyfriend, who was also 19 years old. King put out word about his services on college campuses in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Sophia's boyfriend accompanied her to King's office. They made a down payment of $110 toward the $300 fee for the abortion. (That's over $2,000 in 2020 dollars.) The young couple returned to Youngstown, where Sophia was admitted to South Side Hospital on December 29. She died the following day. King had perforated her cervix, causing both infection and hemorrhage.

Police had Sophia's boyfriend contact King, saying he had the rest of the money. When King came to collect, he was arrested. 

Consistently In Trouble

While awaiting sentencing for Sophia's death, King was sentenced to 90 days for trafficking in amphetamines.

King insisted that while he had indeed seen Sophia, he had only examined her and had only been paid $20. He remained free on a $5,000 bond during the trial. A jury deliberated for 1 1/2 hours before finding King guilty. He was remanded to jail to await sentencing pending a $100,000 bond. The judge justified the high amount on the grounds that King had previously been convicted of an abortion charge after a 26-year-old patient had to be hospitalized in February of 1966. King also had another abortion charge pending against him. 

Convictions and Sentences

King was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in Western Penitentiary for the 1966 charge. In passing sentence, Judge David Olbum told King, "If abortion laws were repealed tomorrow, you would not be qualified to perform abortions." The judge asserted that King "had run an abortion mill for years and years." King's wife, 46-year-old Regina B. King, was charged with being an accessory before the fact and sentenced to three years of probation. I haven't been able to determine how long the sentence was for Sophia's death.

King's attorney said that King only perpetrated abortions because of his "compassionate nature" and not to profit. The Pittsburgh Courier described King as a "well-known Western Pennsylvania physician, an former high school and college star quarterback."

Though convicted and sentenced to prison, King won his freedom in March of 1973 by citing the Roe vs. Wade decision striking down the abortion law.

Watch Retroactively Safe and Legal on YouTube.


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