Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Reflecting on the stories in the new, I received a message from a gentlemen who made some excellent points that I want to cite to many of them here.

From a letter from Mr. Dyer to me,

I share your concerns about omissions in Mr. Lizza's the article on New York the abortion capital of the U.S. He has not responded or acknowledged the letter I sent him, so I see no problem of including it here:

Dear Mr. Lizza:

In your recent article, "The Abortion Capital of America," you wrote,

"It was in New York in 1828 that America’s first real abortion law was passed. The debate of the day wasn't driven by religious concerns about when life begins. Instead, as James C. Mohr's classic history of the subject, Abortion in America, explains, Albany responded to pressure from doctors who were aghast at quacks" butchering women and scamming them with phony abortifacient potions. The law was really about medical regulation, and, according to Mohr, it went completely unenforced."
You are surely wrong in claiming that it was not about “concerns about when life begins." John Brodhead Beck was almost certainly a factor in the passage in that law. My new book, The Physicians’ Crusade Against Abortion, includes on page 12:

When [Horatio Robinson] Storer [M.D. (1830-1922)] made reference to earlier anti-abortion efforts of physicians he did not mention one of the earliest efforts of U.S. physicians to influence abortion laws. John Brodhead Beck's brother, Theodric Romeyn Beck, was one of the "principal behind-the-scene revisors" when New York added a special section on abortion to its new law code in 1828. This made it a crime to "willfully administer to any pregnant woman, any medicine, drug, substance or thing whatever, or shall use or employ any instrument or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of any such woman, unless the same shall have been necessary to preserve the life of such woman, or shall have been advised by two physicians to be necessary for that purpose." Theodric practiced medicine in Albany where he would have had ready access to New York legislators. One key legislator also was a long-time friend and their correspondence discussed Theodric's medical input to legislation. Mohr suggested that John Brodhead Beck also made medical input to the abortion legislation via Theodric.

Another quote from my book (page 11) discusses what John Brodhead Beck had written in 1817:

Storer and other physicians also frequently referred to another early condemnation of induced abortion by Thomas Percival, an English physician who set down a body of Medical Ethics in 1803. Percival's Ethics included: "To extinguish the first spark of life is a crime of the same nature, both against our Maker and society, as to destroy an infant, a child, or a man; these regular and successive stages of existence being the ordinances of God, subject alone to His divine will, and appointed by sovereign wisdom and goodness as the exclusive means of preserving the race, and multiplying the enjoyments of mankind."
A New York physician, John Brodhead Beck, quoted Percival's "To extinguish the first spark" in his 1817 dissertation, "Infanticide," that was republished as a chapter in his and his brother’s textbook, Elements of Medical Jurisprudence. The Elements was first published in 1823 and was used as a text at the Harvard Medical School when Horatio Storer was a student. Horatio mentioned Beck's 'admirable' chapter when he provided a history of medical opponents of abortion in the first of nine articles about criminal abortion in the North-American Medico-Chirurgical Review.
Beck condemned unnecessary abortion and also discussed the inappropriateness of the laws of England and other countries that treated abortion as a less serious crime at early stages of the pregnancy. Beck showed the fallacy of claims that the fetus was not alive early in pregnancy that were the basis for these different penalties. He wrote:

The foetus, previous to the time of quickening, must be either dead or living. Now, that it is not the former, is most evident from neither putrefaction nor decomposition taking place, which would be the inevitable consequences of an extinction of the vital principle. To say that the connexion with the mother prevents this, is wholly untenable: facts are opposed to it. Foetuses do actually die in the uterus before quickening, and then all the signs of death are present. The embryo, therefore, before that crisis, must be in a state different from that of death, and this can be no other than life.

Mohr himself questions Cyril Means' explanations of the 1828 law on pages 28-31 of Abortion in America.
He wrote a book and the web page for his new book is


Here once again is the powerful light of truth shredding the lies and the mythologies of those who would re-write history. Only those who would take the time to study the enormous influence of modern medicine on laws in the 19th century would know the importance of one Horatio Storer, M.D. and the A.M.A.

So to those who are unable to recognize the humanity of the child, I recommend history and the famous saying that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.


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