Quotes from early feminists on abortion: Dr. Alice Bunker Stockholm

Dr. Alice Bunker Stockholm authored several popular medical books. Tokology (2nd edition, 1887) instructed readers about reproductive physiology and prenatal self-care. 

quotes from Stockholm:

“Feticide is a produced abortion, whether by drugs, intentional shocks, electricity, or by instrumental interference, either by one’s own hand or by the hand of a surgeon.

Many women have been taught to think that the child is not viable until after quickening, and that there is no harm in arresting pregnancy previous to the feeling of motion; others believe that there is no life until birth, and the cry of the child is heard.

A high legal authority says: “The absurdity of the principle upon which these distinctions are founded is easy of demonstration. The fetus, previous to the time of quickening, must either be dead or living. Now, that it is not the former, is most evident from neither putrefaction or decomposition taking place, which would be the consequences of an extinction of vital principle. The embryo, therefore, before the crisis, must be in a state different from that of death, and that can be no other than life.”

When the female germ and male sperm unite, then is the inception of a new life; all that goes to make up a human being – body, mind, and spirit, must be contained in embryo within this minute organism. Life must be present from the very moment of conception. If there was not life there could not be conception. At what other period of a human being’s existence, either prenatal or postnatal, could the union of soul and body take place? Is it not plain that the violent or forcible removal of it from the citadel of life is its premature death, and hence the act can be denominated by no more mild term than murder, and whoever performs that act, or is accessory to it, is guilty of the crime of all crimes?

The life of the babe in her arms is to the mother more precious than all else; her heart is thrilled with a pang of agony at the thought of the least danger to its life. By what false reasoning does she convince herself that another life, still more dependent upon her for its existence, with equal rights and possibilities, has no claim upon her for protection? More than this, she deliberately strikes with the red hand of murder and terminates its existence with no thought of wrong, nor consciousness of violated law.

The woman who produces abortion, or allows it to be produced, risks her own life and health in the act, and commits the highest crime in the calendar, for she takes the life of her own child. She defrauds the child of the right to its existence.

There may be no harm in preventing the conception of a life, but once conceived it should not be deprived of its existence in that world which in all its appointments is specially adapted to its development.

What are some of the incentives to produce abortion? An unmarried woman, seduced under false representation by a man who feels no responsibility for his own offspring, suffers alone all the shame and contumely of the act, and is tempted to cause a miscarriage to shield her good name.

Married women who fear that maternity will interfere with their pleasures, are guilty of forcibly curtailing embryonic life. Others again, who are poor or burdened with care or grief, or have licentious or drunken husbands, shrink from adding to an already overburdened existence.

The first class, the girls would lost their virtue under promise of marriage – are most deserving of sympathy and commiseration, though none receive less. “Let him who is without sin cast the first out stone.” At the least imputation against the fair girl’s character, even those professing to be the followers of the loving Christ, often have so little leniency, so little of the Father’s love in their hearts, that they hug their Christian robes to their bodies, lest they be contaminated by the polluting touch of the victim. They “pass by on the other side” and leave the poor brokenhearted child bleeding by the wayside.

This girl’s lessons of life and purity have been learned mainly from one she loved and trusted, only to be betrayed. What wonder that in her ignorance of the value of life she should be tempted to add a second wrong to the first! And if she can conceal the evidence of her guilt, she may hope by honest endeavor to retrieve her good name, and thus is tempted to produce an abortion. Two wrongs cannot make a right…

When girls are given proper instruction upon the relations of the sexes and understand how to govern and guard themselves; when young men are taught that virtue has as high a meaning for one sex as for another, that the protective chivalry of which they boast does not imply that they shall force the woman with whom they associate to the defensive; and that the paternal interest in, and responsibilities for child are equal to the maternal, then the temptation to produce abortion for the purpose of shielding one’s character will not exist.

Of the second class, who produce miscarriage for pleasure and for selfish interest, there is little to say in extenuation. They may be victims of ignorance or of a false education. The maternal instinct is inherent in every woman’s heart. It seems strange that any morbid idea of pleasure could antagonize the natural aspirations to such an extent that one could destroy the viability of her own offspring…

Of the last class, who have an apparent need to limit the size of the family, what can be said in extenuation of their committing this crime? Shall not the mother who already has many children, who is herself sick, nervous, and prostrated, save herself additional care by arresting the life of the embryo? The heart goes out in sympathy for all such, but even the most aggravating circumstances cannot atone for the crime. The whole nature of every true woman revolts against forced maternity.

The remedy is the prevention of pregnancy, not in producing abortion. When men and women have learned the wise control of the procreative functions, then may we hope that children will be begotten in love and unselfishness. It is the undesired and undesigned maternity that is revolting to the nature of woman. As long as men feel that they have a right to indulgence of the passions under law, no matter what the circumstances, what the condition of the wife, or the probabilities of maternity, so long with the spirit of rebellion take possession of women and the temptation and traversals to relieve themselves of this unsought burden. May the day soon arrive when men will learn that even passion should serve reason, and that gratification at least should not be sought at the expense of conjugal happiness and unwelcome children.”

Tokology, pages 245 – 251

Mary Krane Derr “Man’s Inhumanity to Woman, Makes Countless Infants Die”: the Early Feminist Case against Abortion, 1991

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About Sarah

Sarah Terzo is a freelance writer and journalist who works for Live Action. and is a member of the board of The Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians.
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