« ForrigeFortsæt »
versally conceded that the child resembles the parents both physically and mentally. It is indeed wonderful that in complexion, the color of the eyes or hair, in build or stature, and even sometimes in minor peculiarities, like a disfigured lip or additional toe, this resemblance should be transmitted; . but it is far more so, that the moral, spiritual and intellectual nature should be imparted to offspring. Mysterious as this is, the mental characteristics of parents are observed in modes of thinking, speaking, moving, the expressions of the face and the motions and attitudes of the body. Now, at what time was this nature received by the child, except at the moment of conception? The ovule does not come into contact with the paternal sperm till it has parted from the maternal structure; and its attachment subsequently to the wall of the uterus is very similar to that of the eggs of the insect to the limb of the tree, for the purpose of nourishment and protection. It must have already have been imbued with the characteristics, physical, mental and spiritual, which it can receive from either parent. If the father should be transported or shot the next hour after conception, it would make no difference in the child's development; the child of the African would not be made white, nor that of the Caucasian black. Neither can the mother impart more to the offspring than to afford it nourishment, simply as the sap of the tree nourishes the worm. in its branches.
The statement that the fetus is inanimate or without soul for a period of three days, or forty-two, or one hundred and twenty days after conception is absurd. A man ought to be ashamed to advocate such a notion. To call it inanimate, unsouled, while living, growing and developing from the moment of conception till birth! Aye, and only continuing to develop after that period, through infancy and childhood, manhood and old age; and even then looking forward to a state of being in which will be infinite development as well as unlimited duration.
With these facts in view, we ask again: At what time in the course of gestation does it become criminal to produce an abortion? Or, in other words: At what time is it not criminal to do so? At what time is it any less than murder?
The opinions of medical men must modify the popular sentiment, influence tribunals of justice, and even affect the conclusions of the theologian and philosopher. The statutes of the various States and countries have been framed in consonance with them; and hence, unfortunately, most of them are founded upon error. They embody the theory that there is a period between conception and animation, which some regard as "quickening;" when it is a trivial offense to produce an abortion. Even in old Massachusetts, several years ago, it was not indictable to do so prior to quickening. Ancient legislation was based upon such erroneous theory. The Stoics held that the unborn child was merely portio matris viscerum-a part of the intestines of the mother. The crime was accordingly treated as comparatively venial, and the laws took little notice of it, pursuant to the maxim: De minimis non curat lex. About the end of the Seventh Century a different sentiment prevailed and the decrees of the Roman Empire declared the procuring of abortion to be homicide and punishable with death. The Roman law was perpetuated in France till the Revolution, when the penalty for this offense was changed to imprisonment for twenty years. In 1810, under the Code Napoleon it was further reduced.
The Common Law of England, as formulated by Blackstone, accepts this erroneous hypothesis, that the fetus prior to quickening is in a different state from what it is after that period; and hence it does not recognise the procuring of a miscarriage before quickening as a crime; and even after that epoch the offense as declared to be not murder, but a serious misdemeanor. Iris rerum natura non; the killing is not murder. But in the reign of George III., and since that time, the British Parliament have enacted special statutes upon the subject; and the procuring of an abortion, at whatever period of gestation, is declared a felony, to be punished by transportation or imprisonment.
It was not till about 1856 that the subject received due attention in our own country. Professor Storer, of Harvard University, and his son Dr. Horatio R. Storer, then began to agitate the question; and in 1857 the American Medical As
sociation appointed "a committee of leading physicians in different parts of the United States to investigate the extent of this crime and to report what legislative enactments were necessary for its suppression." Since that time much has been said and written on the subject by writers on Obstetrics and diseases of women, as well as by those treating of Medical Jurisprudence and morals generally. Appeals have been made to Legislatures and laws have been procured from them which were actually in advance of public sentiment. If members of the medical profession were excusable in former times for their conduct in the matter on account of their imperfect knowledge of Physiology, they can have no such excuse now.
What can be done to stay this terrible evil? Who should take the lead? The question is answered by another: Who are almost entirely responsible for the fact that this crime is committed? Aye, who are able to accomplish the most in reforming this condition of things?
Perhaps it will be pleaded in reply, that physicians are not the perpetrators in all these crimes. It may be that they are not such directly; yet they are ready nevertheless to fly to the assistance of the woman that has attempted the act; often they have given her important hints as to how to begin it and they will finish it up for her, often having thus escaped the penalty of the law. It is as criminal to instruct such a woman in the use of the instruments, as to commit the actual offense. A woman who had been so taught, carried on the nefarious work in the city where I live; and if the new-fangled doctrine is true that there is no hell for such individuals, then "somebody has blundered."
What has this National Eclectic Medical Association to do with this matter? Much every way; but especially to employ our influence aright, individually and collectively. It is not enough that we have adopted resolutions years ago condemning perpetrators of this crime. We ought to engage in the full discussion of the subject, so as to exhibit every feature of the crime. We should punish every member by expulsion who may be guilty in the matter, and turn him over to the civil
authorities. We should prepare bills for the various Legislatures and appoint committees in each State to work for this enactment.
It is not only for us to point out the kind of legislation needed, but to instruct the people, especially the women, in relation to this matter. We should endeavor to impress upon them their duty and show them the peril to life and health which is incurred by this crime; and more than this, we should refuse to perform or countenance the act, except it is necessary to save the life of the mother.
Jeremy Taylor has eloquently declared: "A good wife is Heaven's last, best gift to man, his angel and minister of graces innumerable, his gem of many virtues, his casket of jewels; her voice is sweet music, her smiles his brightest day, her kiss the guardian of his innocence-her arms the pale of his safety, the balm of his health, the balsam of his life; her industry his surest wealth, her economy his safest steward, her lips his faithful counsellors, her bosom the softest pillow of his cares, and her prayers the ablest advocate of heaven's blessings on his head." Yet while gladly acknowledging all that this imparts, we must not forget that woman's safeguard is her offspring, and guard this with utmost vigilance from the earliest inception to the fullest maturity.
I will conclude by repeating a poem, the supposed production of a woman that has passed from this life into the world beyond. She acknowledges a life of crime, and charges another with having been the instrument or instigator. It is applicable to physicians who give their services to this nefarious work-who are partners in the crime if not principals.
I have done at last with the bitter lie,—
'Twas not so hard. Just a kerchief wet
And backward the tide of suffering set,
But not a tear for the sadder death
I died that day. How strange the fate
All these years in my dead, dead, heart
And no one said as you passed along, "Behold a murderer." No one knew ; You carefully covered the cruel wrong: That the world saw not was enough for you. You had wisdom and worldly pride, And I had silence, for I had died.
The world says now I am dead; but oh,
Oh never to find the peace I crave. 'T were better to be as I have been.
In the peace of the fleeting years, I have
Eternity now to feel the blow