The Crime Of Abortion
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THERE may be some excuse at times for abortion. But in nine cases out of ten such excuses are imaginary, and the destructive influence of such interference with the plan of the Almighty is often terrible in character. We have no right to tamper with God's laws. Within the recesses of the prospective mother's womb there are physiological processes taking place that can only be interfered with at a terrible cost.
To be sure, there are a few women who possess a tremendous amount of vitality and vigor. They are literally as strong as young oxen, and seem to be able to go through an abortion with apparent impunity. But such women are rare exceptions. Abortion will usually leave a woman weak and ailing for months and many times for life. It shocks the whole nervous system in such a manner as to interfere with the harmonious processes of the entire organism. The food will not digest so well after such an experience. The blood has not the life-giving elements that it previously possessed Strange, unpleasant and at times fearful pains dart through the pelvic regions after an operation of this sort. One operation will sometimes bring physiological defects from which a woman never completely recovers. And when we realize how frequently this crime—made possible only by the prudery, ignorance and superstitions of this so-called enlightened, modern age—is committed, by the married as well as by the single, we truly have cause for being appalled.
Though it may be entirely in accordance with the conventional moral law to stigmatize the illegitimate child and to stamp the mother with never-ending disgrace, abortion is nevertheless considered a far greater crime. But abortion may be secretly brought about. No one knows the terrible secret except the victim and the doctor unless death intervenes. And so-called disgrace is thus avoided, though perhaps at the cost of life-long misery and weakness.
When a woman once becomes pregnant, the duties and responsibilities naturally associated with her condition should be assumed, regardless of whether or not she is protected by the marriage tie. The disgrace that is everywhere associated with bringing a child into the world out side of wedlock should not induce a woman to commit the appalling crime of abortion.
We must recognize, however, that the practice of inducing abortion is far from being confined to the unmarried. Many women who are placed in such a position that children might easily be welcomed, refuse to assume the obligation because of social or other insufficient reasons. They have accepted marriage, but they refuse to have children. It is probably well that they do not have them. It is questionable if the child of a woman whose character is such as this would be an honor to his parents, or of value to the world. But the number of women who are desirous of ridding themselves of the natural result of the marital relation is truly amazing. Moreover, some unnatural husbands insist on the death of their own unborn children.
Whether or not the prospective mother fancies that she has reasons for bringing on abortion, we should remember that she is not the only person concerned. Aside from the rights of the unborn child, which must be held sacred in all cases, the husband and father has a definite interest in the matter, and it remains for him to take a positive stand against any such criminal procedure. If the husband has sufficient manhood and force of character, he will not consent to or connive at an operation of this type. If all men would take this stand, there is no question but that the extent of the evil would be greatly lessened.
If one does not desire children, if the heart and soul protest against the responsibilities they bring, then it is best to avoid the intimacies that lead to a family. Most women will say that this is impossible, and in nearly all cases their argument is well weighted with truth. If you are married to a conventional man, you will find him thoroughly imbued with the idea of his legal rights in marriage, and he exacts them usually with unfailing regularity. What then is a woman to do who hates children, who literally abhors the thought of bringing a new life into the world? "Why, do you think I would have one of those brats running around me?" is a remark I heard on one occasion from a woman who had acquired an abnormal attitude toward children. And I might well ask: Would it be desirable for such a woman to have a child? I might go further, and ask if it is not really a crime against the child itself to have it brought into the world by such a woman? Women of this sort should not marry.
But aside from such instances, the question of birth control, or the prevention of conception, assumes great importance in many other cases. Is it not better in nearly all cases that the bringing of children into the world should be intelligently managed? Is the possibility of conception something to be ignored and left to chance? Or should it be under control, a matter to be planned for so that it may take place only under the most favorable conditions, and only the most satisfactory children be born? Even in a family where children are desired and welcome, it will often be found that there are times when the vitality of one or both of the prospective parents is lowered, and under such circumstances it is certainly desirable to be able to avoid parenthood until the physical condition of both is made as perfect as possible. Children should come at a time when the parents can best do justice to them. If the husband, to take another instance, is addicted to alcohol, is it not of the utmost importance that conception should be avoided until he has been able to break the habit and his blood has been free from the influence of this poison for a considerable time? Various other requirements may make it desirable in different cases to limit or control the bearing of children. Sometimes where both parents desire and love children, it may still be desirable to limit the size of the family, or to insure against too short intervals between births. If a mother does not have a sufficient period for recuperation between the coming of her children this natural function may involve a serious drain upon her vitality and bodily re-sources whereby the vitality of the later children is reduced. And when the earnings of the father are small it will usually be better to so limit the size of the family that it may be comfortably provided for and well brought up, than to compel the mother to bear children repeatedly to the limit of her physical capacity, and to bring them up in poverty.
All of these considerations are practical. They are intimately related to the lives of thousands of men and women. Furthermore, birth control would, in a vast number of cases, mean the prevention of the hideous crime of abortion. There are some people who do not seem able to distinguish between abortion and the prevention of conception, but the two measures are as different as possible. The first means murder—the destruction of a new life. The second means simply not calling a new soul into existence. After conception has once taken place the new life has begun, and is it not criminal to destroy it?
In European countries various means for pre-venting conception are openly sold in drug-stores and freely advertised in publications. They have apparently never seriously lessened the birth-rate, except perhaps in France, as it is far greater per capita in some European countries than it is in the United States among native-born Americans. Here, however, it is a crime, punishable in the most serious manner, for one in any way to furnish information or means that will enable a woman to prevent conception. As a result there are thousands of women who are compelled to bring into the world unwelcome children.
It must be admitted that in nearly every in-stance the child that at first seems unwelcome is finally able to entwine itself in the heart-strings of the mother and is cared for in a fitting manner so far as circumstances will permit. But there are other instances in which the child remains unwelcome throughout the entire pregnancy period, and is still more unwelcome when it appears. It has no home to come to. It really has no father and no mother, in the best sense. It is simply an unwelcome "brat" that interferes with the pleasure and the general routine of the life of mother and father. Such a child is cursed before birth. Unquestionably from these child products of human bestiality come the most of our criminals and our defectives, mental, moral and physical. If a woman does not want to have a child, it is a crime to force one upon her. It is a crime against the mother, and a still greater crime against the child.
Naturally, I would advocate a continent life as the best means of avoiding conception, but I must at the same time admit that such a life, if continued by a couple in possession of normal health for a prolonged period would be either detrimental or disastrous to the physical and moral welfare of each. Under the circumstances it can easily be understood that it will be impossible for me to mention any means of preventing conception other than the continent life. And it might be well to point out definitely that there is no method of preventing conception that is absolutely sure every time, and that nearly all methods are, to a certain extent, harmful in their influence.
There is a great difference in this respect, however, and it is vitally important to avoid those measures which are extremely injurious. The sweeping statement is frequently made that all methods are harmful, though it is doubtful if this is strictly true. In some cases the harm accomplished, if any, is very slight, but it must be said that some of the methods most used are extremely injurious.
In this connection we may say emphatically that any departure from the strictly. natural character of the sex relation is almost certain to react injuriously upon both parties. Once the marital act has been commenced it should be carried through to a natural completion, or it will prove harmful. It might even be said that when once the passions of both have been aroused to the point at which the marital relation is physiologically demanded, then it should be carried through if the question of the health of both parties is to be considered. Not to do this means not only more or less nervous derangement, but serious congestion of the parts involved, producing weakness or inflammation. I have referred to this matter in Chapter VI on "Love-Making and Its Dangers." But the physiological results are naturally far more serious if the relation has actually been commenced and is then interrupted be-fore it has been completed. The method practiced by a certain group of idealists, is to be condemned as equally unnatural and undesirable as a means of avoiding conception. No one can afford to take any chances of ruining the health by these abnormal practices. It were better by far to live a strictly natural life.
It should be said also that mechanical means or appliances for preventing conception are generally very unsatisfactory and unreliable. They are likely to be misplaced and to fail completely in their purpose, but further than this they tend to cause serious irritation of the female organs, inducing inflammatory and other disorders.
There is at the present time a very extensive agitation for the repeal of legislation which makes it a crime for the physician, or any one else, to supply information upon this important subject. It is claimed that such knowledge is necessary in the cause of eugenics, in order to limit the birth-rate of those who are constitution-ally defective or tainted. It is claimed that with proper knowledge upon the subject conception could be prevented without resort to the more harmful and disastrous measures which many people are now compelled, through ignorance, to use.