A FEW months ago a lady doctor with an address in Harley Street and another one in Surrey was found guilty at the Old Bailey of performing illegal operations upon women and was sentenced by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Hewart, to three years penal servitude. The glamour of Harley Street, which enabled the practitioner to charge fees up to 100 guineas, did not save her from this severe penalty. But, curiously enough, this case, though extensively reported and commented upon in the lay press, was given practically no notice whatever in the journals of the medical profession.
Professional abortionists are frequently “wise women” in the villages and smaller towns and third rate nurses and midwives who operate with a knitting needle or some other primitive instrument. Only very rarely it happens that a doctor or surgeon is convicted of the crime of abortion. The doctors and surgeons are more careful than the wretched amateurs who often have to stand trial for the mans laughter of their unfortunate victims.
The crime of abortion is extremely frequent. Although in popular opinion it is usually committed by non-doctors who act more or less clumsily, it cannot be doubted that the vast majority of abortions are produced by fully qualified medical men and women for very high fees.
Every medical practitioner and every well- informed lay healer has met scores of women who tell them glibly that they have got rid of an unwanted baby with the assistance of some doctor or surgeon. I, personally, have heard of a very large number of cases. A woman who does not want to have a baby can easily find an accommodating doctor or surgeon. The names of these professional abortionists are well known and are the tea table talk of drawing rooms.
If one enquires where and how the abortion was produced one is told very frequently by a woman that she was sitting in a waiting room crowded with women who told one another of their experiences with professional abortionists. The crime of abortion is one of the darkest blots on the shield of the medical profession and it seems high time that the medical profession expelled not only members who advertise by publishing signed articles in the lay press which do relatively little harm.
It is imperative that the medical profession should rid itself of well- known criminals who lightly undertake the crime of abortion. I estimate that the abortions done by medical men in this country number about 50,000 per year.
Among professional abortionists it is well known that it is risky to act unless a second opinion is given. If a second opinion has been obtained the abortionist considers himself absolutely covered. I was once visited by a young woman of the most magnificent physique. She was 21 or 22 years old and was on the stage. She was an excellent dancer and singer, a magnificent tennis player, she could master any horse, took part in swimming competitions, could dance all night, had never been ill in her life, and there was not a blemish about the body and not a tooth stopped.
She found herself in the predicament in which young women occasionally find themselves. When her periods had stopped, she went to one of the most distinguished gynaecologists in Harley Street, who made the usual tests and told her that she had conceived. The girl entreated him to rid her of the baby. He said he could not possibly do so unless she brought a certificate from another doctor, and he actually gave her an introduction to a doctor in Kensington.
That individual, who was obviously in league with the distinguished Harley Street specialist, wrote a letter recommending interruption of pregnancy “for reasons of health”, and the young woman was operated on and paid 70 guineas.
The crime of abortion on the part of doctors is getting more and more frequent and it affects the health of the race and the existence of the race itself. If a woman dies when operated upon by an outsider, an inquest is held, the crime is discovered and the culprit is punished and the fact is recorded in the press. If the crime of abortion is done by a qualified doctor or surgeon, death ensues less frequently, but if it occurs, there is always the possibility that a mendacious death certificate is issued unless the relatives compel the holding of an inquest which they naturally wish to avoid because of the scandal.
The birth rate is falling, and it is falling largely because of the abortions performed by medical men. The upper class and the middle class, who have the money to pay for professional abortion, furnish by far the largest percentage of babies destroyed in the womb. The upper and middle class, who provide the nation with men and women of ability are thus weakened by the very men who should do everything in their power to preserve and strengthen the race. In the oath of Hippocrates the crime of abortion was condemned with particular energy.
The abortionists, professional and lay, are not only guilty of race murder but they are also guilty of the destruction of the national health. Ever-increasing numbers of women go to the professional abortionist, and they are persuaded to undergo treatment which they are told is “not risky”. In reality the risk of abortion, even if performed by gynaecologists residing in Harley Street, is very considerable. In innumerable cases the health of women has been undermined or destroyed by abortion.
Very frequently women who have undergone abortion once remain sterile. Tens of thousands of marriages are made unhappy by abortion. In tens of thousands of cases the woman finds it inconvenient to have a baby, the professional and conscienceless abortionist gladly obliges her for a very high fee. A few years after the woman may wish to have children and she will often find she has become completely sterile by the criminal violence done to her.
One meets such women who go from specialist to specialist, from health resort to health resort, in the hope to have a baby, but that hope has been ruined by the violence done to them.
In passing sentence, the Lord Chief Justice said: “I do not know whether you are aware with regard to these offences that they render you liable to penal servitude for life, so grave is the view which the law takes of them. It is obvious that you have been practising as a professional abortionist. I am not sure I am not erring on the side of leniency when I pass sentence of three years penal servitude”.
I do not believe that the sentence passed on the Harley Street woman and the wide publicity given to the case will restrict the number of abortions undertaken by medical men. The only effect will probably be that in view of the greater danger of punishment fees will be increased and the increased fees will no doubt attract medical men without conscience who specialize in abortions, who are already unfortunately many. If the medical profession cannot clear the Augean stable then the legislature must intervene and undertake the necessary cleansing which is overdue.