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long as there is no quickening. I have learned from undoubted sources that many ladies of elevated standing in society, and even in the church, are in the habit of having abortion produced without the least hesitancy as to any impropriety in the procedure."
Yet another witness we call before you, one whose practice carries him to the bedside of females of all classes and grades of society, and who, therefore, has most ample opportunity for making himself acquainted with the extent to which the practice of criminal abortion is carried, and the relative social proportion that one class of those who practise criminal abortion bears to another. This gentleman makes, and has made, for a long series of years, diseases of women, and especially uterine affections, a specialty. He says: “I believe artificial causes of abortion are frequent both in the married and unmarried, and more frequent in the better classes of society than among the poor."
We fain would cease to weary you with this painful and disgusting history of crime, but in justice to the subject, and the great purposes of morality and enlightenment, we beg your indulgence while we introduce to you another, who will testify upon this branch of the subject. This witness has been a practitioner of medicine for 25 years— a gentleman of erudition, having extensive practice, and an enviable reputation, both as a teacher and practitioner. "In my earlier practice," he says, “I had more frequent applications to produce abortion than now. Within the past year, however, I have been applied to by three different persons of high respectability (married), to get rid of the fætus in the early stages of pregnancy; in two of the cases, on the ground of the excessive sufferings of the mother during gestation; and in the other, simply from the inconvenience of an increase of family! My opinion decidedly is," he continues, " that this sort of criminal abortion is very extensively practised among married women, without the slightest compunction, and, as a consequence, I believe that the number of children has materially fallen off.”
The learned and honored Professor Hugh L. Hodge, M.D., LL.D., says, in speaking of criminal abortion, so far back as 1854:
“ Would that we could exonerate the moderns from guilt on this subject! It is, however, a mournful fact, which ought to be promulgated, that this crime, this mode of committing murder, is prevalent among the most intelligent, refined, moral, and Christian communities.
“We blush,” he continues, "while we record the fact that in this country, in our own cities and towns, in this city, where literature science, morality, and Christianity are supposed to have so much
influence; where all the domestic and social virtues are reported as being in full and delightful exercise; even here, individuals, male and female, exist, who are continually imbruing their hands and consciences in the blood of unborn infants."
“So low,” the Professor continues, “is the moral sense of the community on this subject, so ignorant are the greater number of individuals, that even mothers, in many instances, shrink not from the commission of this crime, but will voluntarily destroy their own progeny, in violation of every natural sentiment, and in opposition to the laws of God and man.
“ This low estimate," continues the same authority, "of the importance of fætal life, is by no means restricted to the ignorant, or the lower classes of society. Educated, refined, and fashionable women-yea, in many instances, women whose moral character is, in other respects, without reproach. Mothers who are devoted, with an ardent and self-denying affection, to their children who already constitute their family, are perfectly indifferent respecting the fætus in utero."
“We can,” says Professor H., “bear testimony that in some instances the woman who has been well educated, who occupies high stations in society, whose influence over others is great, and whose character has not been impugned, will deliberately resort to any and every measure which may effectually destroy her unborn offspring.”
Taking this evidence en masse, it presents a most shocking and painful history of crime and ignorance, which, without such evidence, we would be very slow to believe, if, indeed, we received it with any credulity whatever. But such it is, and as we found it, so have we presented it, regretting that the facts are such, and that society, from its very centre to its circumference, is so blurred, begrimed, and blackened with this festering and growing infamy, which, with one of our witnesses, we may well fear is fast-too fast -developing “a social gangrene in the community which threatens its life by destroying its very roots, which nature intended should cluster around the domestic hearth."
While we are ready and willing to give certain domestic and social conditions their full value in influencing the commission of the crime of abortion, yet we are convinced, “ beyond the shadow of a doubt,” that the ignorance of certain facts on the part of women is more effective in causing the commission of the crime than all things else combined. Ignorance of the great vital and physiological laws of the conception and development of the fætus, and
I Lecture on Criminal Abortion, 1854.
an almost universally erroneous belief that the foetus is not viable until the fourth and half-month of its development, the usual period of "quickening," improperly, as already remarked, so-called, and an ignorance of the fact, admitted and taught by all physiologists, physicians, learned divines, and Rabbis, that the embryo is a living being from the moment of its conception--a creature in the state and condition of progressive existence, as absolute at and from the period of conception, as at any other period of its uterine or extrauterine development-ignorance of the sinful nature of the act of the wanton destruction and dislodgment from the womb of the embryo as well at any period before as after the term of "quickening" -ignorance of the fact that the nature of the crime of the destruction of the being is at all times the same, and for which crime there is no other proper qualification than murder, and is at the root of the crime.
We are also convinced that a wide-spread diffusion of the necessary information among women, by those in whom they have confidence as moral and religious instructors, will in a brief cycle very perceptibly diminish, and finally almost entirely prevent, the commission of the crime of abortion. Is this opinion worth anything? Are we in possession of any facts which justify our conclusion, and fortify the faith which is in us, that the dawn and full realization of such glorious results are in the near, and, as we hope, the fast approaching future? Having seen the almost universality of the practice of the crime, and having-perhaps to the surprise of some -learned that its devotees are found in all classes of society—the refined and the vulgar vying as it were with each other in the commission of the sin—it may be proper at this period of our inquiry to make an effort to answer the query, How shall the practice of the crime be controlled or prevented ? Oh! that it were our high province to successfully answer the question. That it might be our crowning privilege to suggest a remedy by which there should he weeded out from the social and domestic garden the foul plant, whose poisonous exhalations are productive of such extended blight, corruption, and moral decay.
We are now about venturing upon slippery ground, a venture which, under some circumstances, and with some, might encounter the not well-regulated religious prejudices, and perhaps, worse than all
, that unfortunate bigotry and selfishness which find their full espression now, as in times long past, in the declaration that “no
can come out of Nazareth.” With the full hope and belief that we are reporting to a body of such enlightenment, liberality, and universal Christian sentiment; that, however much any of those
present may not agree with the reporter's suggestions, or the practicability of the plan, yet we feel confident that any disagreement will not prevent them according to the reporter an honesty of intention, and a desire to serve the best interest of woman in the matter of preventing the crime under consideration. Have we any facts which prove that criminal abortion is less practised by one or more classes of religionists than others? If yea, how has this exemption from the crime been secured ? and may not others, by the use of the same or like instrumentalities, be freed from it?
Although the circular of the committee did not contain a question asking for the information which we are about to present, yet it was volunteered by some of those who replied at length to the committee's questions. Part of the information thus obtained we shall now lay before you, premising the remark that we feel that it was the sincere desire of those gentlemen who contributed it, that it should have its full weight and force in aiding the committee in developing a plan which would largely effect the prevention of criminal abortion.
Dr. David Gilbert wrote: The teaching of Holy Writ on this subject (criminal abortion) cannot be plainly and fully declared by all religious teachers. It is,” he continues, " a fact well known to practitioners, that communing members of the Catholic and Israelitish Churches are not guilty of this crime. I have,” he further continues, "never met with a single case; but, on the other hand, when accidental abortion was threatened, there was manifested the most intense anxiety that the fætus might be saved. The inference may," the same authority says, " be fairly deduced that, whenever wilful abortion will be presented in its true character as a crime, as in the case of the Catholic and Jew, the people thus instructed will be duly influenced just so far as they may be sincere in their religious professions."
Dr. J. C. remarks that," I bave a practice which embraces, I may say, all religionists. It has struck me as a very remarkable peculiarity in the matter of abortions, that the greater number of those which I have attended spring up in Protestants, and have been the result of some wilful violence; that I have never treated a case in a Catholic or Hebrew which I believed to be wilful; and further that, while in the instance of Protestants, with scarcely an exception, requests were never made to prevent the abortion from being consummated; in the instances of the Catholics, I was implored to arrest the abortion, and much solicitude was manifested lest it should go on. I have naturally inferred that there must be some special instruction given by the Romish and Jewish churches which
has the effect of largely preventing the existence of the crime of abortion among their communicants."
Dr. A. S. remarks: “ The work of preventing the practice of the crime of abortion is with ministers of the gospel. There are none I know who are so correctly instructed by their ministers upon this matter as Catholic women; and I also know that they are very much more free from the vice of criminal abortion than other wo
and this I say, while by religious training I am not in sympathy with those people."
Dr. J. M. C. says: “I feel that I should say to you, gentlemen, that, while I know that Protestant women practise criminal abortion without any apparent misgivings of its gross impropriety-provided the act is anterior to quickening'—that Catholic women, or at least those I have attended, while threatened with abortion, have invariably been much distressed with the fear that they would abort, and have urged that nothing should be left undone to save the babe," etc. etc.
We might present more evidence of this character from those who replied to the circular, but we forbear, that we may call your attention to evidence of the same nature from another source.
The next witness we shall call upon the stand to testify before you is the Rev. John Todd, D.D., a Protestant divine of Boston, Mass. The Rev. Doctor, feeling, and yielding to the necessity for the pulpit to cast the mighty weight of its influence in arresting criminal abortion, in the rapid strides it is making, wrote and published a paper on the subject, which he entitled “FASHIONABLE MURDER.” Dr. Todd writes: “It is well known that families of children of this generation, in New England, do not average but three and a half each; and I fear this is true of the greater part of our country; I speak of our native population. With foreigners it is different, and the cause of difference will soon be mentioned.” “I am sorry," continues this learned divine, “to learn from undoubted testimony, that the practice of criminal abortion is far more common among Protestants than Catholics. Dr. Storer says 'infinitely more frequent;' and this accounts, in part, at least for the much larger families of Irish Catholics."
6. There is," Dr. Todd continues, " nothing in Protestantism that connives at it (criminal abortion), but there is vast ignorance as to the guilt of the thing. But in the Catholic Church human life is guarded at all stages by the confessional, by stern denouncement, and by fearful excommunication. The rule in the Catholic Church is unbending." In keeping with this subject, the reverend gentleman remarks: “ If it be said that I have in any measure exaggerated the evil and the