Dr. Kenneth Edelin says he knew that prosecutors were "after" him when he walked into a grand jury room in Boston last February to testify under subpoena.
The grand jury was investigating fetal research at Boston City Hospital (BCH) and Edelin, a resident in obstetrics and gynecology at BCH, said last week that he thought he had been subpoenaed simply to give evidence on hospital procedure.
"But suddenly I became aware that they were looking at me," Edelin said. "It was very apparent that they were after me."
What Newman A. Flanagan, assistant district attorney in Suffolk County, had on Edelin was a photograph of the dead black fetus that he had seen in the morgue in the course of his investigations.
The gestational age of that fetus--and whether it was "viable" --are important issues in Edelin's trial this month.
Edelin said he testified before the grand jury for nearly 45 minutes, and that the cross examination was "kind of rough," but that he later was reassured by hospital colleagues that "It would all blow over."
Nonetheless, he said that he awaited what he hoped would be a statement from Flanagan clearing him for any blame in the matter.
Flanagan called him on April 11, but it was to tell him of his indictment on a manslaughter charge, and to say that Flanagan was not sending police to arrest him because of his position.
Edelin, who is 36 years old, said last week that the last eight months have been the most painful period in his life, a "nightmare" that he said would only be relieved by the innocent verdict he said he deserves.
He said that his is a "test case," for both opponents and advocates of legalized abortion, and he said he fears that Flanagan will run his trial "based on emotionalism."
Flanagan has repeatedly denied that his prosecution will be based on anything other than the facts, and he also has attacked what he said are efforts to link Edelin's indictment with an anti-abortion movement.
Edelin said he is confident that if the jury is "made aware of what the law is," he will be cleared. He said that he has never performed an illegal abortion.
The alleged manslaughter occured sometime last October; the exact date has been impounded by the court. Edelin has admitted that the abortion was performed, but has asserted that it was legal.
Edelin was then one of two obstetricians on a staff of 15 who agreed to perform abortions. "For religious, moral, or personal reasons," Edelin said, the rest of the staff did not choose to do them.
Duty to the Community
"We two took it upon ourselves over and above our duty to provide that service to the community," Edelin said. "It was not a pleasant thing to do. We had to do them late in the afternoon or on Saturday mornings on our own time, with a skeletion crew in the operating room."
Edelin came to BCH after an internship in Dayton, Ohio, in an air force hospital. He said that he grew to like obstetrics and gynecology while in Dayton.
Before that, Edelin was a medical student at Mahari Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., from 1963 to 1967. Mahari is the nation's only predominately black private medical school, and Edelin, who is black, was class president while there.
Edelin said that since his indictment, he has attempted to said his defense by helping attorney William P. Homans Jr. '41 with scientific investigation for the case.
He said that the national significance his trial may have on abortion law has "thrust" great importance on himself. But Edelin said that it is important to oppose what he said is a national movement opposing legalized abortion.
Still, Edelin said that he is personally worried that he could lose his license or be sent to jail. "A lot of innocent people have been hung," he said. "And I don't want to be one."