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The medical profession, which took the first step in modern times in the
authorization of abortion, has not at present taken any further step. It
has been content to lay down the principle that when the interests of the
mother are opposed to those of the foetus, it is the latter which must be
sacrificed. It has hesitated to take the further step of placing abortion
on the eugenic basis, and of claiming the right to insist on abortion
whenever the medical and hygienic interests of society demand such a step.
This attitude is perfectly intelligible. Medicine has in the past been
chiefly identified with the saving of lives, even of worthless and worse
than worthless lives; "Keep everything alive! Keep everything alive!"
nervously cried Sir James Paget. Medicine has confined itself to the
humble task of attempting to cure evils, and is only to-day beginning to
undertake the larger and nobler task of preventing them.
"The step from killing the child in the womb to murdering a
person when out of the womb, is a dangerously narrow one," sagely
remarks a recent medical author, probably speaking for many
others, who somehow succeed in blinding themselves to the fact
that this "dangerously narrow step" has been taken by mankind,
only too freely, for thousands of years past, long before
abortion was known in the world.
Here and there, however, medical authors of repute have advocated
the further extension of abortion, with precautions, and under
proper supervision, as an aid to eugenic progress. Thus,
Professor Max Flesch (_Die Neue Generation_, April, 1909) is in
favor of a change in the law permitting abortion (provided it is
carried out by the physician) in special cases, as when the
mother's pregnancy has been due to force, when she has been
abandoned, or when, in the interests of the community, it is
desirable to prevent the propagation of insane, criminal,
alcoholic, or tuberculous persons.
In France, a medical man, Dr. Jean Darricarrere, has written a
remarkable novel, _Le Droit d'Avortement_ (1906), which advocates
the thesis that a woman always possesses a complete right to
abortion, and is the supreme judge as to whether she will or not
undergo the pain and risks of childbirth. The question is, here,
however, obviously placed not on medical, but on humanitarian and
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