Physician Edelin recounts his famous abortion trial in this gripping memoir.
In the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, pro-life groups scrambled to skirt the Supreme Court ruling. One tactic employed by conservative district attorneys was to criminally charge doctors who performed abortions for their by-now legal operations. Though almost no one charged was indicted, latent racism and Catholic-dominated government made for a more dangerous environment in Boston. Edelin, a well-respected, black OB/GYN at Boston City Hospital, was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Charged with manslaughter by conniving district attorney Newman Flanagan for a routine procedure, Edelin was indicted and formally tried in what was considered a test case for the future of women’s rights. Edelin sketches the circumstances splendidly, providing a brief history of abortion as well as giving background on Boston’s roiling social chaos in the early ’70s. The case itself–memorable to anyone who lived through that time period–constitutes the bulk of the book. The author reconstructs events not only from his memory but also from courtroom transcripts. For the most part, Edelin works with aplomb, though his insistence on phonetically representing Flanagan’s Boston accent becomes wearisome. He is less successful in his efforts to inject his personal life into the narrative. Descriptions of his marriage woes seem like afterthoughts, and the running theme of his mother’s death from cancer–his reason for wanting to be a doctor in the first place–while tragic, is not without melodrama. Wisely, though, Edelin largely focuses on the mockery of the trial itself, from the unfair jury-selection process–which resulted in a jury comprised of almost all white men–and obvious sympathetic leanings of the assigned judge, to the guilty verdict and its eventual overturn on appeal, creating a page-turning courtroom drama that would make Grisham proud.
An excellent read for anyone who lived through that time, or readers interested in the history of abortion.