By Kristin Luker
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63) On the other side of the paradox, however, the logic of the physicians' need to upgrade their status meant that they could not simply advocate the elimination of all abortions. They sought instead to regulate abortions, thereby serving their own professional goals. If these regular doctors were as actively opposed to abortion as their public rhetoric suggested, we would expect the result of their efforts to be laws that either forbade abortions entirely or, at the very least, carefully defined the few kinds of abortions that could take place.
66 Even Horatio Storer, in many ways the most prominent anti-abortionist of his day, subscribed to a broad view of what "saving the life" of a woman entailed. 67 All the available evidence suggests, therefore, that rhetoric notwithstanding, nineteenth-century anti-abortion physicians who were successful in securing the first statute laws prohibiting abortion never believed that embryos had an absolute right to life. Instead, like most MEDICINE AND MORALITY IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 35 of those around them (and indeed, like most Americans of the present day), they believed that although embryos had rights, these rights were subordinate to the life of the mother, in both the broad and the narrow sense.
Rather, public (and much medical) opinion seems to have been that embryos were, morally speaking, simply not as alive as the mother, at least until quickening—and sometimes later than that, if Burns did not disapprove of all abortions (and neither did his colleagues later in the century, as I shall show). This same passage continues: I do not, however, wish from this observation, to be understood as in any way disapproving of those necessary attempts which are occasionally made to procure premature labor, or even abortion, when the safety of the mother demands this interference, or when we can thus give the child a chance of living, who otherwise would have none.
Abortion & the Politics of Motherhood by Kristin Luker