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a few weeks before his death, that he felt indisposed to further prosecute the work confided to the committee, the reporter solicited from him the papers, letters, and documents which had accumulated in his hands as chairman of the committee, assuring him that we would use the facts in a paper which we would prepare and present to this Society. The doctor kindly placed the papers, letters, and documents in the reporter's possession, and we are now about to redeem the promise made to one who, as a zealous member of this Society, ever active, and ever ready to contribute more than his full quota of labor and intelligence to advance the great objects of its organization, commanded admiration and profound respect.
Part of the committee's plan for obtaining a knowledge of the extent of the practice of criminal abortion in Philadelphia, was the issuing a circular-chiefly interrogatory-to all the regular physicians in practice in that city.
Of the many who received the circular, only a few responded. It is to be regretted that the interrogatories were not more largely replied to, for-judging from the replies received_had the responses been anything like equal to the number of circulars issued, there would bave been a sum of facts, and an amount of information in regard to the practice of criminal abortion collected, which, while they would have exhibited an almost appalling sum of a peculiar infamy, would have given more extended and still further positive data upon which to base the superstructure of a preventive plan. Fifty-nine physicians honored the committee with replies, some in brief, others in extenso.
Among the questions propounded was, “What proportion of your cases of abortion do you believe to have been criminally produced ?" To this, nineteen of the fifty-nine respondents answered that onehalf of all their cases were wilfully or criminally produced. Twentyone, that one-fourth. Eleven, that a large majority; and another, that seventy-five per cent. of his cases of abortion were criminally brought about. Seven failed to answer the query.
The facts thus collected, although garnered from only fifty-nine physicians, exhibit an amount and degree of a peculiar crime, well calculated to arouse the attention, not only of the medical profes. sion, but of the divine, the moralist, and the legislator, and to unite them in the good and holy work of devising a plan by which the onward march of this iniquity may at least be retarded, if not completely arrested.
As has been remarked, the replies were elicited from only fiftynine physicians, yet as these physicians were practising in all sections of Philadelphia—north, south, east, west, and central—it is
fair to infer that they fully represent the entire profession, as regards its acquaintance with criminal abortion. If this inference be just, then to what a startling degree and extraordinary sum of crime do these replies call attention. To what an extent of shameless abandonment to a peculiar kind of wickedness, on the part of the women of Philadelphia, do these revelations point; and as these revelations are but the repetition, as it were, of the same reports elicited from the profession in every large city, and more especially the older ones of this land, to what an almost incredible amount of fæticide is our attention thus directed.
We repeat the testimony-one-half say many, one-third say others, one-fourth others again declare; and yet another, as if to overwhelm with the magnitude of the crime, states that 75 per cent. annually, of all cases of abortion, are criminal-yea, are the results of premeditation, of cool, calm, and deliberate determination, with “malice prepense and aforethought," to lay or cause to be laid, murderous hands upon the helpless being, guiltless of all wrong, and who, both intra-uterine and extra-uterine, has the most enlarged and undoubted claims upon the care, kindness, and protection of her who conceived it. Almighty God! I reverently ask, Can it be that the women who practise so largely and so repeatedly this crime are in knowledge of its magnitude in thy sight? Can it be that, with a correct estimate of its enormity, and in full knowledge of the fact that they violate the command given amid the thunders of the Mount—"Thou shalt not kill"—that, in destroying the fruit of their womb, they commit murder, foul and bloody, and walk the earth as did Herod of old, all stained and spotted with the blood of unoffending innocence, and, that at the bar of the Great Judge, they will have to answer for their wilful and wanton destruction of human life—and that, too, the life of all others which they should most have nurtured and protected. Heaven forbid that woman, whose goodness, purity, chastity, and religion have so often and so deservedly been the theme of poets, and the subject of panegyrists, should only, yea, only, in exceptionable cases, be in knowledge of the nature of the crime which she commits, and the degree of her offence when she kills, or permits to be killed, her unborn babe. "If woman is ignorant of the viable condition of the fætus, and the extent and gravity of the wrong done in destroying her conception, and that this, her ignorance, tends to encourage the practice of the vice, then it is fair to infer that the converse of this proposition-correct information in regard to the viability of the fætus, and the murderous nature of the act of its destruction at any time—would do much to stay the onward flow of the bloody
current of this crime, and cause woman to shrink from its committal as she would from the horrors of that conscience which knows no peaceful rest. Let some plan, some blessed plan-blessed because of the good fruit which it will produce—be devised, by which woman may be promptly and fully instructed in all that regards the life of the being in her womb, from the moment of its conception; its high and unquestionable claims upon her most observant care, that no harm shall come to it, and the nature and gravity of the offence, in rudely and wilfully thwarting the will of the Almighty, in preventing the full development in utero of the fruit of her conception. If the instruction of woman in the physiology of conception and the development of the babe in her womb, and her instruction as to the murderous nature of the offence of destroying it, will have the much-desired effect of largely arresting the commission of criminal abortion, as we believe such instruction will have, there is not any time to be lost in making ready a plan for her enlightenment.
We have seen that the evidence presented clearly makes manifest that the practice of criminal abortion is of vast and unsightly proportions. Viewing the crime from this standpoint, we find more than sufficient to excite us to the work of reformation. But when we add to this the other fact that the crime is annually on the increase, there is another incentive to engage in the work of reformation. That some positive data might be obtained in regard to the increase of the crime in Philadelphia the committee referred to . asked in its circular, “Is it your opinion that abortions are on the increase in our community?” To this question, in sadness, we make record that there came an affirmative response from all the respondents. The united evidence, it may be said, of the profession, is not only that criminal abortion is extensively practised, but that the crime is rapidly marching on, gathering annually blood-stained recruits to its murderous ranks, and promising, by the boldness of its perpetration, and its frequent production—if positive preventive means be not developed—to render itself defiant by the number of its devotees, and the universality of its commission. “Why stand we here idle?" why sleep we, like an unworthy and never-watchful sentinel, when the citadel of woman's purity is being daily and hourly assailed, and not sound the alarm that "all is not well with her?" -Oh! for a reformer, one who with "throat of brass and adamantine lungs," would proclaim from mountain top and the depth of the valley, in city and country, in hamlet and village, here, there, and everywhere, that he might be heard by every woman that, forced abortion, no matter at what time or stage of the development
of the being it is committed, is, in the sight of God, murder most foul and unnatural, and demand of her, as she hopes for peaceful rest beyond the grave, that she no longer stain her hands with the blood of her unborn, unoffending innocent.
It was, perhaps, not unreasonable for the committee to desire to know what were the incentives to the commission of abortion; hence, through the circular, the question was asked, "What causes, in your ju igment, lead to the production of the crime?” The replies present a remarkable similarity, and may be epitomized thus: The unfortunate, or those who conceived out of welllock, to hide their guilt; on the part of the married (and they are numerically the chief offenders), the inconvenience incident to pregnancy, fear of the pains and risk of labor; but mainly-and here we would, if the stern demands of truth and the best interest of woman did not urge us on, cease making the record-but to resume, say they, the act is mainly committed to avoid the labor and expense of rearing children, and the interference with pleasurable pursuits, fashions, and frivolities. Ponder for a brief period upon this evidence as to the causes inducing the committal of the crime, and see how perfectly barren in everything which you would regard as even a shadow of a sufficient reason for any woman making claim to morality, much more to religion, to induce her to imbrue her hands in the blood of her conception, and by the act endanger the salvation of her immortal soul.
These facts demand that we shall here renew the plea for woman of ignorance. She sins, yet knows not the magnitude of her offence. She violates the command of God, not in the fulness of her intelligence, but in the completeness of her ignorance. She tears open her womb, or permits it to be assailed with instruments or emmedagogues, and the little being within to be ruthlessly destroyed, mainly because she does not comprehend the immoral enormity of her conduct.
We have personal evidence which teaches us that, if woman fully comprehended the extent of the crime, she would not for a few worldly, ephemeral pleasures, or for an exemption from a few toils here on earth, risk an eternity of bliss. In entering the plea of ignorance in behalf of those guilty of criminal abortion, it must not be understood that this plea of ignorance is intended to embrace a want of general intelligence, and absence of general education. Such is not the case. The crime finds its full quota of devotees among those who claim to be educated and intelligent. The plea is, ignorance of the true physiology of gestation—of the true condition of the being at all times, while in utero—and this
ignorance is as great among the ordinarily educated as among the so-called uneducated, as we shall take opportunity to demonstrate by undoubted witnesses. The task is not pleasant, but it must be performed. It may appear strange, even improbable, to those who have paid but little, if any, attention to the subject of criminal abortion, that the crime, so far from being confined to the lower and middle strata of society-regarding them socially and educationally-finds its patrons, in large proportion, in the higher grades of society. The polite, the refined, the gentecl, the educated, the pol. ished, the worldly good, are in this respect not less leprous than those of the lower and middle orders of society. That' a correct appreciation of this statement may be formed, we will introduce to your attention some evidence embodied in some of the replies to the circular.
A member of the profession, than whom none in this community stands higher, both as regards his social and professional status, a gentleman noted for the purity of his mind, the extent of his learning, and who holds a professorial chair in one of the two great medical schools of Philadelphia, writes : “ I have been shocked beyond measure by having proposals made to me to procure abor.. tion, by women of education and respectable position in society, and who were even professors of religion in some cases. They were in all instances married women; but their idea generally was that the fætus is not alive, but only has, as one might say, a capacity for living, and hence that, to destroy it was not homicide, and hardly more criminal than to prevent conception. I have known a married lady, wealthy, and of most respectable connections, who, on two occasions certainly, was badly injured by an abortionist, whom her husband employed at her solicitation.” This gentleman continues : "A moral and social gangrene pervades the community, and threatens its life, by destroying its very roots, which nature intended should cluster around the domestic hearth.”
Another gentleman, an ex-Professor, a man of ripened years, a close observer, one whose professional duties were largely confined, during the latter years of his life (he is now numbered with the dead), to the practice of obstetrics and the treatinent of the diseases of women, Dr. D. Gilbert, wrote to the committee: “While the moving springs to the perpetration of the crime of criminal abortion consist generally of impure motives, it is yet true that many persons, who would not knowingly be guilty of an act so improper, do not hesitate to ask for relief from pregnancy. I have been often called upon by ladies of the most undoubted character, who very innocently suppose that it cannot be wrong to produce abortion, so