Reproduction And Natural Law
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
IN the past it has been the generally accepted theory that parents were merely the unconscious instruments of the Divine Spirit, for the working out of his will, and that the mental and moral attributes of their children, their temperament, health, character, and sex were direct decrees of the Infinite, which it was useless for the finite mind to try to comprehend or explain.
Today we are wiser, and have learned that Nature is the great exponent of sublime truth, and natural law the Creator's text-book, by which he teaches his children the perfection of the divine plan, and lifts them to a higher plane of responsibility.
In Nature it is law, not chance. Effect is the natural sequence of cause. A child, if he puts his hand into the fire, will be burned, not to punish him for having disobeyed the warning of his parents, but to teach him that he has willfully broken an immutable law.
If there are known laws governing reproduction, just as divinely ordained and enforced as the laws of gravity, of space, and of motion, every man and woman, rich or poor, high or low, every reasoning creature, has a right to know them, for the truth belongs not to individuals, but to all humanity.
If a child can be well born by simply following certain under-stood laws of Nature, if the mental, moral, and physical condition of the child at birth and for its entire existence is dependent upon absolute law, as immutable as the motions, diurnal and annual, of the earth itself, or the phases of the moon and the rise and fall of the tides, then the parents who bring into the world an imperfect creature are just so far culpable, inasmuch as they have failed to do their whole duty.
This may sound severe, almost heartless and cruel, to parents with afflicted children, but we must say it, for it is the truth, that the fathers and mothers of the present may profit by the solemn lesson taught by the past, and, being shown their responsibility as parents, may fulfill to the uttermost, so far as lies in their power, their obligations to their own children and to the generations yet to come.
We believe that in this enlightened era no one has a right to marry into a family where there is known insanity, or even partial imbecility, and the kindred evils that follow out to the letter the inexorable law, " The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children." Like begets like, the laws of heredity are inflexible, and the child is but the composite picture of what its parents are and their progenitors have been.
In addition to woman's moral obligation to herself, let us speak briefly of her duty to her husband-a duty as sacred as the solemn vows taken at the altar can make it-" To have and to hold, to love and to honor." This must mean to retain by every art and power the love and admiration of her mate, thereby promoting that perfect union of souls which marriage implies, and insuring not only the happiness of the home and the mated pair, but the well-being of the little ones who may come to bless them.
If I were asked the great requisite for marital happiness, I should unhesitatingly reply, health. By a wise and persistent observance of the simple laws relating to exercise, diet, dress, ventilated dwellings, and other sanitary conditions, we may all hope to obtain this priceless blessing, from which so many others flow.
The woman with a good constitution, even if she be not either young or handsome, if she has the bright eye, the clear mind, vivacity, and buoyant spirits which only a woman physically sound may know, has an attractiveness of her own that will not only increase her comfort and happiness, but will be an important factor in aiding her to fulfill her whole duty as woman, wife, and mother.
Our duty is clear. We must recognize our responsibility not alone to ourselves and the present, but to posterity and the future. No woman has the right to be selfish, and least of all will the tender, loving, maternal heart forget that every sob, every tear, every sigh, every fear, is a crime committed against her own unborn child, and from which it will suffer throughout its whole life. Before birth is the time to prove the strength and power of mother-love, not afterward, when it is too late to undo the grievous mistake, the fatal wrong our folly has committed. The devotion of a lifetime, alas! will not atone to the child for antecedent neglect.
The day will come when the rights of the child to be well born will be recognized and respected. In that day the "defective" will demand the reason for its puny limbs, impaired mind, misshapen spine, pain-racked body-a life of suffering with blasted hopes-and the world will not condone or palliate the cruelty and crime committed against the unfortunate child, deprived of its birthright, on the old plea of ignorance or the pretense that God willed a defective should be born-a pre-tense that is contradicted by every law, human and divine.