Don’t tell me you know what it is. It is a narrow flexible tube used in early stage abortion, as part of a vacuum aspiration.
It came to me when I was on the board of Point Foundation, the foundation created with the money from Stewart Brand’s Last Whole Earth Catalog. I later became president of the board when Stewart lost interest in the responsibilities.
In late 1971 two women came to me from the East Coast with the intent of creating a low cost self help abortion clinic. The fee was to be $25 dollars. The technique used a small vegetable cylinder inserted in the cervix that expanded over night. That allow for the use of the Karman cannula attached to a vacuum machine to suck out the contents of the uterus.
Point Foundation gave the women a grant. They trained a group of activist nurses who opened a small clinic to provide $25 abortions.
In late Spring of the following year a group of women came to my house to explain to me that the Karman cannula was an abomination and I shouldn’t support the project.
The group grew to half a dozen women who met a few weeks later in North Beach to plan on shutting down the women’s clinic that was doing the Karman cannula abortions.
Their argument was that abortions were such a serious medical event that women needed counselling before and after the procedure. Raising the cost to $125. They shut down the clinic.
By January of 1973, the Supreme Court mooted the issue with the Roe v Wade decision.
It was from my involvement with the Karman cannula that I got a lifetime understanding of how women feel about the abortion issue. There is and always will be internecine warfare. Some women think an early stage abortion is nothing significant, others consider the whole issue laden with major human trauma.
Over time I went from seeing some women friends treat their early stage ‘vacuum aspiration’ as a minor procedure to other women who claimed it was a major trauma of their life.
In the 1960's I helped two women friends get legal abortions in San Francisco. In California, that required the signed authorization of two psychiatrists. There were several dedicated feminist psychiatrists whom I knew who would gladly sign off for a modest fee. Both women were grateful and neither treated it as a major event.