Crime Of Abortion
( Originally Published 1918 )
ABORTION may be looked upon as an evidence of human degeneracy which has come to us from perverted methods of education associated with a desire to enjoy life's pleasures without assuming the responsibilities allied therewith. It indicates a lack of reverence for human life. One would think that modern enlightenment, with its increasing respect for human life, would have produced a change in the attitude of human beings toward their embryo off-spring. That this does not seem to be the case, in many instances, is a striking proof of the corrupting environments that now affect the development of the human intelligence and conscience.
It used to be thought that there was no life in the embryo until what is known as the time of quickening, when the mother could begin to feel the movements of the fetus within the womb. It is known now, however, that there is life from the very moment of conception, and that to interfere with the process of development which is going on there is, in truth, to take life, which is, in bald phraseology, to commit murder. Yet how many women are there who would shrink from killing even the mouse that was nibbling at their food, and yet who do not hesitate deliberately to kill their own offspring? They do not term it that, of course, and without doubt they have many ways of hiding the actual facts from themselves, and so escaping the condemnation which their own consciences should inflict upon them. They try to make themselves believe that this act is made necessary on their part by their own physical frailty; by the danger which they think they are in when facing the process of birth; by the limited state of the family income; by the fact that more children are not desirable. Whatever the course of specious reasoning which the woman goes through, it is none the less a fact that she has committed a sin and a crime.
While it may be that, in the majority of instances, it is the wife who first thinks of this way of ridding herself of an unwelcome burden, in many instances it is the husband who makes the first suggestion. He has no desire for any larger family, he does not care to listen to his wife's complaints at the inconvenience she has to suffer during the nine months of pregnancy because of his demands, and so he urges her to escape from the troublesome situation.
If women really understood the enormity of the crime which is either contemplated by them-selves or suggested by their husbands, they would resolutely refuse to listen either to their own fears, or to the arguments of another. Indeed, if they realized the full extent of the injuries which they may thus inflict upon themselves, they would hesitate long before taking so serious a step. The very fact that it is against the law of the land for them to do such a thing should make them pause and consider. Any physician who performs what is called a criminal operation, lays himself open by so doing to severe punishment, and anyone who assists in such an undertaking must also suffer a penalty.
It does not seem to the young wife that a sufficient development can take place in the first month or two, or even three, to make interference with the process a very serious matter; yet many a woman has discovered, to her deep regret, that her attempt to free herself from what seemed to her a physical burden has put a much more serious one upon her in the form of life-long illness or physical disability. Abortion usually leaves a woman weak and ailing for months, and many times for life. It shocks the nervous system in such a manner as to interfere with the harmonious processes of the whole organism. The blood has not the life-giving elements that it previously possessed. Strange, unpleasant and at times fearful pains dart through the pelvic region after an abortion. One such operation will sometimes produce physiological effects from which, a woman never completely recovers.
Sometimes the newly married woman feels that she is not quite ready to assume the responsibilities of motherhood, and takes this method of postponing the necessity of doing so, only to discover, later on, when she desires children that she has produced a condition which makes it impossible for her to have them. After one or two abortions every pregnancy, in some cases, results in a miscarriage. The delicate machinery of the body cannot be tampered with in this way without the probability of serious results.
While one finds it almost impossible to forgive the married woman who, through selfishness, cowardice, or some other unworthy motive, takes the life of her little child that might be, one can understand better the impulse which moves the unmarried woman to such a course. She naturally dreads the discovery of her wrong-doing; she sees a lifelong disgrace facing not only herself, but her innocent child; and she feels that it would be better to deprive the little one of life itself rather than allow it to come into the world burdened with the stain of illegitimacy. Yet even she must realize that, having called this life into existence, she nevertheless has no right to cut it short in this way. While we must always condemn the illegitimate parents, we are gradually approaching the time when we shall see that there are no illegitimate children. In that day we shall realize that every child, if we see that it has the right environment, may be made a national asset. When that time comes the nation will refuse to allow children to be brought up in the midst of surroundings which turn them into criminals, simply because their parents are neglectful, or unable properly to provide for them.
It may encourage the unfortunate young woman to go through with her bitter experience to the very end to know that hundreds of others like her, who have brought children into the world that were not properly planned for, and who have done their best to make desirable citizens out of them, have, in the end, been more than repaid by the upright, honorable men and women who have not been ashamed to call them "mother."
The birth and care of her child is many times the salvation of the girl who has taken a misstep. If we who are protected from wrong-doing would only go out of our way to help and en-courage these poor, unfortunate creatures, hundreds of them would gladly return to the path of virtue and would rejoice in an opportunity to prove that they are not "lost" women. They may have "fallen" temporarily, but they may rise again to even higher levels than those on which they walked before.
When a woman becomes pregnant, she should at once realize that it is incumbent upon her to live up to the duties and responsibilities which belong to her condition. If she is normally healthy and is able rightly to direct her life, there is no reason why she should dread this experience. She should realize, before attempting any such serious step as this, that she is not the only person concerned. The husband and prospective father has a right to be considered. The child is his as much as hers. Morever, they should both realize that their child belongs also to the nation. Today we appreciate this fact as never before, because we realize that the nation's life depends upon the new individuals continually coming into existence.
If it is not desirable to have children at any particular time, then husband and wife should strive for that self-control which will free them from these responsibilities. Wives are very apt to say that they cannot control these matters of marital intimacy. The husband considers that he has certain rights, and he requires the wife's acquiescence. It may be that is true in many instances. In other cases, however, I have no doubt that if the wife were properly to approach the husband upon this subject, she might be able to bring him into a state of mind where he would be willing to show more consideration for her. Hushands sometimes have a keener appreciation of the wife's position and a truer desire to protect her, even from themselves, than the wife gives them credit for having. Surely every right-minded man would much prefer at least to make _ the effort to gain such self-control, than to put his wife in a position where she is tempted to commit so terrible a crime as that of abortion.
It will be well for every woman to understand that no method has ever been devised for child-murder which is even tolerably safe for the woman. The methods employed even by so-called experts in this terrible profession are questionable and often dangerous to life,
Women should also understand that there is no "medicine" which is sure to produce the desired effects. Most of the remedies that are advertised and sold for such purposes are entirely worthless, being made not so much to produce the desired effect as for the purpose of making money for their manufacturers. These reap a fortune from the gullibility of their victims. The same is true of the female "regulators" that are put on the market under different names.
The victim of abortion rarely regains the full degree of health which she enjoyed before. She is always liable to further miscarriages, and she must always carry in her mind the consciousness of having taken the life of her own offspring.
It is, of course, true that in very exceptional cases it becomes impossible, either because of accident, malformation, or disease, for a woman to carry her child to full term without thereby sacrificing the life both of herself and the child. Such a serious matter, however, can only be decided upon rightly by wise and honorable physicians. If the conclusion of such a consultation is that both mother and child are in danger of losing their lives if Nature is allowed to take her course, it may be necessary to sacrifice the life of the unborn in order to save the living. Only under such circumstances, is it permissible to deprive the embryo of its existence.
It would hardly seem necessary to say anything upon the subject of infanticide, and yet we do hear occasionally of poor, unfortunate women whose children seem to them to be a badge of shame and who add to their first wrong-doing by deliberately killing their offspring. No right-minded woman, no matter how deeply she may feel the disgrace of bringing a so-called fatherless child into the world, would deliberately add to her guilt by this crime. Let Society not forget, however, that a man who leads a woman into wrong-doing and then deliberately leaves her to bear her shame alone is as responsible for her crime as she is herself. Let us hope that the day is coming when all motherhood will be held sac-red, and provision will be made for the proper care of every child, so that no mother may feel it necessary to lay such a burden of guilt upon herself.