By Kristin Luker
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Ironically, what the physicians did, in effect, was to simultaneously claim both an absolute right to life for the embryo (by claiming that abortion is always murder) and a conditional one (by claiming that doctors have a right to declare some abortions "necessary"). Physicians could not give up either half of the paradox. In order to claim that doctors as professionals were sufficiently prestigious and upright to be trusted with arbitrating the sacred boundary between life and death, they had to claim both that the embryo was a life and that physicians could sometimes sacrifice that life.
A Book for Every Woman in 1866 and Is It I? A Book for Every Man in 1867. Hugh Hodge, a professor of the diseases of women and children at the University of Pennsylvania, published Foeticide, or Criminal Abortion in 1869. Ely Van de Warker, the president of the Gynecological Society of Boston, published "The Detection of Criminal Abortion" in the society's medical journal and later reprinted it as a monograph for the general public in 1872. 33 Why should nineteenth-century physicians have become so involved with the question of abortion?
Once they had alerted Americans to the "fact" that abortion was murder, the logical move would have been to turn the issue over to their "competition"—clergymen who would deal with its moral consequences and lawyers who would deal with its legal consequences. Ironically, what the physicians did, in effect, was to simultaneously claim both an absolute right to life for the embryo (by claiming that abortion is always murder) and a conditional one (by claiming that doctors have a right to declare some abortions "necessary").
Abortion & the Politics of Motherhood by Kristin Luker