In the first place, there is no room for any diversity of view as to abortion outside the exceptions I have named. It is simply the most cowardly and bridal form of murder, committed for the most selfish of motives. There should be no hesitancy at least on that point. I wish I could say to those young girls who prowl nightly through the streets, inquiring, with veiled faces, at drug-shop counters for abortifacient remedies, or for those cold-blooded charlatans, those night-hawk Borgias of unborn innocence (not always,alasf belonging to the illiterate laity, nor to even the known "seal-law ag3 " of the profession), who, for a week's wage of an ordinary mechanic, hire themselves to perpetrate a crime meaner, more cowardly than open, manly homicide; I wish I could say to these, many of them innocent victims of man's perfidy, that, as far as moral guilt is concerned, they might just as well take the rosy, smiling babe from the cradle, and strangle it, as to swallow the potion that stills forever the tiny heart they can feel beating beneath their own.
Let the young mother'—married or single—keep this thought constantly in her mind if she would avoid divine vengeance; for, believe me, they were no idle words which came to that little circle of listeners by the sea of Giflilee—"whoso shall offend" (attack, assail, hurt or injure—see dictionary) "one of these little ones, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."1
The moral unity of any community is not one of standard, nor of acts, but of tendency. Men are born with benevolent feelings very subordinate to selfish ones; and fortunately bo; as a little thought will convince us that the extinction of selfishness—and this is a hard blow to the altruist— would necessarily result in the complete dissolution of society;1 but it is the function of civilization, and of religion, to partially invert this order; or at least to restrain congenital tendencies within prescribed limits. Special circumstances may influence the intermingling of complicated motives; may temporarily obscure or retard moral evolution; but back of all the conflicts of theological dogma, independent of all material or psychical processes, is a well-defined ethical idea of right and wrong, which resists every counter-stroke of philosophy, and the most obtrusive element of which is the inviolable sanctity of human life.
1 "We are accustomed to scrutinize the actions of others, to set a higher value upon one man than another, to pity one in distress, to congratulate another on some good fortune, and all these exercises are intrinsically social, like love and resentment. Stlf-lovt it the specific designation of this contracted sphere of regards." Bain, toe. cit., pp. 202, 203.
The man who destroys life, at whatever period, save in defending his own, or in obedience to the behest of law, is a murderer; and I make the assertion, and devote so much space to the matter, simply because men and women are trying on every side to stifle their innate instincts, and to reason themselves into the false and foolish belief that destroying a foetal life is a very different thing from destroying that of an infant after birth, or that of an adult. Both acts, so far as moral guilt is concerned, are, on the contrary, precisely alike. So much alike, indeed, that post-natal infanticide, coming directly within the juridical category of murder, I shall omit largely in this connection, the arguments used applying equally to both intra- and extra-uterine murder.
One of the first needs of a licentious act is, of course, to conceal its consequences. Many of the reasons given by married women for procuring abortion would have some weight were they not preventable. Thus, a woman with an abnormally small pelvis may very justly dread the ordeal of childbirth; but such a woman never should have married. The same remedy applies if she have an incurable disease; and in almost, if not all, such cases it will be found that the first sin lay in exposing herself to a condition in which the secondary one became necessary. Of course many will say that this is a hard remedy—to abstain forever from sexual pleasure. It is; but the condition necessitating it is also hard.
There is a great thirst for knowledge on sexual subjects among all classes to-day; and while much of it may be due to licentiousness, and the desire to pick up information that will help to obviate its natural consequences, a great part also will be found in women who are striving to guard themselves against the unbridled and brutal passions of their husbands. The troubles, anxieties, fears of untimely death, and the physical pains woman endures through the selfish lust of man, have driven her to every imaginable artifice to prevent conception, or procure abortion; ruining her health and destroying both peace of mind and happiness of heart.
Dr. Beamy, of the Ohio State Medical Society, writes—"from a very large verbal and written correspondence in this and other States, together with personal investigation, and facts accumulated, it appears to me we. have become a nation of murderers."1 This startling statement, founded on most undeniable facts, has reference to the widespread, and apparently increasing, habit of committing abortion, or foeticide, which is, to all intents and purposes, premeditated murder.