On Sunday, the reproductive
health community lost Dr. Richard Hausknecht, a pioneer in medication
abortion, a founder of New York City’s first abortion clinic, and
a longtime advocate for women’s reproductive health. He died of lung
With an M.D. from Tufts, Dr.
Hausknecht became a resident at Yale before Roe v. Wade. Treating
women who had been injured by illegal abortions compelled him to start
advocating for reproductive rights and searching for ways to make abortion
safer. He never stopped. "Abortion is stuck in a corner," he said
later. "It should always be a part of general reproductive healthcare."
When New York State legalized
abortion in 1970, he helped open the first abortion clinic in New York
City, seeing patients who had traveled from around the country to have
abortions. He also conducted pioneering research on
the safety and efficacy of methotrexate-misoprostol for medication abortion,
eventually serving as the medical director of Danco, the company that
succeeded in bringing mifepristone to the U.S.
Over his five-decade career,
he dedicated a great deal of time to training other doctors in techniques
for both surgical and medication abortion. He maintained a private practice
in New York City until joining Danco. He held academic positions at
Yale, Columbia, Mount Sinai, and the Albany School of Medicine. He also
served as a fellow in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
and on the Medical Advisory Board of Planned Parenthood of New York
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I knew Dr. Hauknecht as a founding
board member of Physicians
for Reproductive Choice and Health.
In his eight years on the board, he helped build the organization, bringing
his burning intelligence and passion to every project. Dr. Hausknecht
did not suffer fools gladly, and his wit was sharp. I am sad to lose
such a wonderful friend and colleague. He will be sorely missed.