Missao BeppuHawaiiSUMMARY: Missao Beppu died sometime around 1938 after an abortion committed in Honolulu, Hawaii by lay abortionist Harry Hart.
At some time in the late 1930s, Harry Hart and Edith Parker were jointly indicted by the grand jury of the first judicial circuit of the Territory of Hawaii for the crimes of abortion and manslaughter arising out of the death of Misao Beppu, whose pregnancy had been advanced enough that she was legally classified as “quick with child” — she had felt the baby move.
Upon Hart’s appeal, the court noted that there could be no disputing Misao’s cause of death. The question was whether Hart had perpetrated the abortion himself or merely arranged and facilitated it. That he was culpable had been demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt. He did try to argue that the evidence failed to show that the abortion hadn’t been necessary to save Missao’s life, but, the court noted, “there is no presumption of good faith or legitimate purpose where a layman performs an abortion.”
When arrested on January 14 at the Honolulu hotel where Missao had relocated from her home in Maui four or five days prior to her death, Hart went into an “entire mental collapse.”
A physician had been called in to attend to Missao at the hotel, and removed her to Queen’s Hospital, where she died. Though Hart’s attorney had stipulated at trial that the doctor hadn’t seen Missao prior to arranging the transfer, Hart tried to implicate him as the guilty party. In fact, Hart had admitted to police that Missao had come to him to arrange an abortion because she couldn’t afford a doctor. He had then arranged for professional lay abortionist Edith Parker, a midwife, to do the job.
The court ruled that even if Hart had not been present at the time the crime was committed, he was nevertheless an accessory and thus just as guilty as Parker. However, the fact that he visited Missao at least twice prior to Parker’s arrival indicates more than merely a superficial participation.
Hart visited Missao in the hospital at least twice, on one occasion bringing her oranges. He asked about her condition and about whether she’d been questioned about his participation, or about a woman named Flora.
Shortly before Missao’s death, a woman had gone to the hotel to meet with Hart and arrange an abortion. He showed her “his crude instruments” that he would use. The woman, actually an investigator, immediately left the room and summoned the police to arrest him. It was then that Hart swooned.
The judgment of the circuit court is affirmed.
A 1937 Honolulu city directory lists Misao Beppu as a teacher residing in the city. The 1930 Federal Census lists a 23-year-old woman of Japanese descent living on Maui with her family. If this is the same Misao Beppu who died from abortion injuries, that would have made her 30 years old at the time of her death.
Territory of Hawaii v. Hart, Decided: August 22, 1940.