By Kristin Luker
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Extra info for Abortion & the Politics of Motherhood
Second, they argued, they were obliged to act in order to save women from their own ignorance because only physicians were in possession of new scientific evidence which demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the embryo was a child from conception onward. The physicians were probably right in their belief that American women did not consider abortion—particularly early abortion—to be morally wrong. As we have shown at the beginning of this chapter, that attitude would have been consistent with a long moral and legal tradition.
The range of acceptable grounds for abortion is demonstrated by T. Gaillard Thomas, an outstanding obstetriciangynecologist and a strong anti-abortionist. "66 Even Horatio Storer, in many ways the most prominent anti-abortionist of his day, subscribed to a broad view of what "saving the life" of a woman entailed. 67 All the available evidence suggests, therefore, that rhetoric notwithstanding, nineteenth-century anti-abortion physicians who were successful in securing the first statute laws prohibiting abortion never believed that embryos had an absolute right to life.
With greater or lesser degrees of detail, all seem to have drawn on relatively widely available and popularly accepted beliefs about the development of the embryo. Popular (and legal) accep- MEDICINE AND MORALITY IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 27 tance of abortion was not based on ignorance of "the facts," as physicians asserted, but on a different moral evaluation of the facts. Motives for Mobilization Thus, the question remains: why, in the middle of the nineteenth century, did some physicians become active anti-abortionists?
Abortion & the Politics of Motherhood by Kristin Luker