Dr Kenneth Edelin, a Boston
physician at the centre of a landmark abortion case in the 1970s, died December 30, 2013 in Sarasota, Florida. He was 74.
Edelin's wife, Barbara,
confirmed that he died after suffering from cancer.
She said that her husband
was a great teacher and mentor, guiding many young doctors over his career.
"He was a great
advocate for the rights of women to have choice in their own reproductive
freedom," Barbara Edelin said. "Particularly for women of colour and
She said he was affected
deeply as a child when his mother died of breast cancer.
"He became a doctor
because that's what he thought he needed to do to help women," Barbara
Read: Coping with cancer
What made Edelin well known?
Edelin made national
headlines when he was convicted of manslaughter in 1975 for performing an
abortion. That was two years after the US Supreme Court legalised the procedure
with its decision on Roe v. Wade.
According to the NAACP
Legal Defence Fund, the Massachusetts Supreme Court later overturned Edelin's
guilty verdict, in a case that helped legally define what an abortion is and
when human life begins.
Edelin went on to become an
outspoken activist and spokesman for reproductive rights, the LDF said. He also
served as a chairman of the board of Planned Parenthood. Edelin joined the
LDF's senior board in 1986.
Read: More aid for reproductive health
"Dr. Edelin was a
fearless man of integrity and conviction," LDF Director-Counsel Sherrilyn
Ifill said in a prepared statement. "As an LDF board member, he was a
powerful voice and advocate for civil rights."
Edelin was the first black
person to become chief resident of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
in the history of Boston City Hospital, according to the LDF.
Edelin fought for women's rights
In the book Broken
Justice: A True Story of Race, Sex and Revenge in a Boston Courtroom, Edelin recounted the experiences of his criminal case.
"At the centre of this
book are the rights of women to control their own bodies, and the rights of
doctors to perform legitimate and legal medical procedures," Edelin wrote.
Read: Abortion rates higher in illegal countries
"For me, the struggles
for reproductive rights for women and Civil Rights for African-Americans are
intertwined and at the same time parallel.
The denial of these two
rights is an attempt by some to control the bodies of others. Both are forms of
slavery. We must never let slavery in any form return to America."