This section is from the book "The Transmission Of Life. Counsels On The Nature And Hygiene Of The Masculine Function", by George H. Napheys. Also available from Amazon: The Transmission of Life.
• The habit of uncompleted intercourse which many adopt must be disapproved on the same grounds. It does violence to nature, and is liable to bring about premature loss of virility, and serious injury to the nervous system.
It is a doubtful question whether any of the appliances of art recommended for this purpose, even if they are innocent in regard to health, are morally to be approved. Whether under some rare and exceptionable circumstances, as when women conceive during nursing, or are incapable of bearing children with safety to life, such means are permissible or not, must be left for the medical attendant to determine, and he alone must bear the responsibility of affirming or refusing to affirm the practice. But in the majority of marriages. where the avoidance of children is sought merely to save expense or trouble, or to give greater room for freedom and selfish pleasure, the resort to such means must be unequivocally condemned.
We may be criticized, as, indeed, we have been, for referring to this delicate and difficult subject at all. But, as the Rev. John Todd pointedly remarks in an article on this very topic: " If there be indelicacy, it is in the facts, not in calling attention to them." " It has become the fashion," says that distinguished clergyman, "for parents to be leading round a solitary, lonely child, or possibly two, it being well understood, talked about, and boasted of, that they are to have no more. The means to prevent it are well understood instrumentalities shamelessly sold and bought, and it is a glory that they are to have no more children." This is sadly true, especially in the cities and large towns of this country.
Its results are even more conspicuous in France. Dr. Bergeret, a prominent physician in one of the provincial towns of that country, draws a striking picture of the demoralization it has brought about. He shows how the bonds of public morality have been loosened, the sacred institution of marriage converted into legal prostitution, woman sunk in respect, man yielding to unnatural debauches, losing his better impulses to plunge into sensuality, diseases and debility gaining ground, the number of births constantly decreasing, and the nation itself incurring the danger of falling a prey to its rivals through a want of effective soldiers. The picture is a gloomy one, and is probably but little overdrawn.
If it is true that the native American population is actually dying out, and that year by year the births from couples born in this country are less in proportion than those from couples one or both of whom are of European birth, as many have asserted, then we must seek the explanation of this startling fact either in a premature decay of virility, or a naturally diminished virility in middle life in the husbands, or to an increased tendency to sterility in the wives, or else, and this has been the, perhaps, hasty conclusion of most writers, we must suppose there is a deliberate and wide-spread agreement between those who are in the bonds of matrimony, that American women shall be childless or the next thing to it.
Sometimes this is secured by the prevention of conception. This, when it is accomplished by any other means than the observation of the natural periods of sterility conjoined with abstinence, is not to be sanctioned as a rule.
But when resort is had, as it frequently is, to the prac-tice of Criminal Abortion, then no language is too severe for its condemnation.
We need not here rehearse what others have said upon this topic, and what we ourselves have spoken concerning it with no uncertain sound. But there is one element in this crime which we wish here to bring prominently forward. It is the responsibility which the husband has in its commission.
It is useless to deny or to conceal the fact that in very many instances the husband's dislike of a large family, combined with his unwillingness to practise self-denial in regard to his appetites, is the motive which, beyond all others, induces the wife to visit the fashionable Aborter, and to destroy the fruit of her womb and imperil her own life and health. This cowardice and brutality on his part cannot anywhere find an excuse. As Dr. Horatio R. Storer observes in his Is It I?-
" In a very large proportion of cases, this shocking and atrocious act is advised and abetted, if not compelled, by the husband.
"For the woman, enfeebled perhaps by too excessive child-bearing, for which her husband is generally wholly responsible, for few of our wives do not become, sooner or later, virtually apathetic; for the woman, timid, easily alarmed, prone to mental depression or other disturbance, and dreading the yet safe and preferable labor that awaits her, there is a certain measure of excuse. For her husband, none."
This flagrant abuse is not confined to immoral circles of society, nor to the corrupt atmosphere of our great commercial centres, but extends into remote country hamlets, and throughout all grades of social life. We call upon our readers by example and precept to do their utmost to stem its devastating tide, and at least in their own families, and among their friends, to mete its due reprobation.
Its worst effects are not seen in marriage, though no physician is ignorant how many women in the community suffer from the vile " French pills" and " female regulators" hawked about, as well as from rude instruments in awkward and unfeeling hands. But it is in the impunity which the vicious believe they enjoy, the temptation to indulge in lustful and illegitimate liaisons, the weakening of virtue, that its most serious consequences are manifest.
The laws in several of our States on this subject are severe. In New York it is a penitentiary offence to perform, or to obtain, or to aid in obtaining an abortion. But yet, such is the boldness of vice, that in the New York city papers scores of advertisements of professional abortionists may any day be seen!