Medical Issues

In the mid-nineteenth century, the states began to pass laws that regulated the availability of abortion. But the driving force behind these laws was not so much popular or religious opinion. It was, instead, the organized medical profession. An effective campaign begun by doctors in 1857 and led by Horatio Storer, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology, focused on the value of human life. The doctors especially spoke of the fetus's right to life. In 1859, at its annual convention, the American Medical Association (AMA) called for an end to legal abortion, including those performed before quickening. Abortion was declared an “unwarranted destruction of human life.” Doctors claimed that the rationale behind the declaration was a fear for women's safety. They pointed to the number of poorly qualified personnel and unregistered clinics that were performing abortions at the time. Critics disagreed. They said that by outlawing abortions, doctors protected themselves not only from the loss of patients but also from the loss of revenue that would go to those doctors who performed the abortions.

In 1871, the AMA also denounced doctors who performed abortions. They were called “false to their profes


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