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Pioneer Abortion Doctor Dies

Sarasota Democratic Club
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Dr. Kenneth Edelin, a central figure in the struggle over access to abortion in the 1970s, died in Sarasota on Monday at age 74, according to the New York Times. His family said he died of cancer.

Edelin, who was professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Boston University School of Medicine, was convicted in 1975 of manslaughter for performing a second-trimester abortion. The verdict --- issued by a jury dominated by Catholics -- came two years after the U.S. Supreme Court issued the Roe v Wade decision that made abortion legal. Prosecutors had argued the six-month fetus was a person entitled to protection under Massachusetts law.

The judge gave Edelin probation, and he retained his medical license and professorship. Later, the Massachusetts Supreme Court overturned the guilty verdict. His case helped define the legal boundaries of legal abortion.

An activist for reproductive and minority rights, Edelin served as chairman of the Board of Planned Parenthood and a senior board member of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. After retirement he split his time between Sarasota and Oak Bluffs, Mass.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.