Thursday, July 14, 2005

Blast from the Past

Come back with me to 1960, and let's consider the words of then-Medical Director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Dr. Calderone's quotes, given below, are from "Illegal Abortion as a Public Health Problem," published in the July, 1960 issue of the American Journal of Public Health (v. 50 no. 7), pages 948 - 954. If you want a copy to read for yourself, contact the reference desk of your local public or university library, and the librarian can assist you in getting it from microfilm or through Interlibrary Loan.
On the legal status of abortion at the time (c. 1960)
Dr. Calderone: "In 46 states legal abortion is permitted to preserve the life of the mother; three states allow, in addition, preservation of the health of the mother."

On the typical criteria for a legal abortion.
Dr. Calderone: "[T]herapeutic abortions are for the most part being done on the word of psychiatrists that the unwilling mother will otherwise commit suicide."

On the medical risks of pregnancy and therapeutic abortions be for medical reasons.
Dr. Calderone: "[M]edically speaking, that is, from the point of view of diseases of the various systems, cardiac, genitourinary, and so on, it is hardly ever necessary today to consider the life of a mother as threatened by a pregnancy."

On abortion mortality before legaliation.
Dr. Calderone: "In 1957 there were only 260 deaths in the whole country attributed to abortion of any kind." (Note: This means legal abortions, illegal abortions, and miscarriages combined.)

On the 1955 Planned Parenthood conference on abortion's findings about abortion mortality trends.
Dr. Calderone: "In New York City in 1921 there were 144 abortion deaths, in 1951 there were only 15." (Note: Abortion was illegal in New York the entire time covered by this dramatic drop in deaths.)

On how abortion deaths were being reduced without legalization.
Dr. Calderone: "[F]irst, ... antibiotics have come in, benefitting all surgical procedures as well as abortion. Second, and even more important, the [1955 Planned Parenthood Conference on Induced Abortion] estimated that 90 per cent of all illegal abortions are presently being done by physicians."

On the character and qualifications of illegal abortion practitioners.
Dr. Calderone: "Call them what you will, abortionists or anything else, they are still physicians, trained as such; and many of them are in good standing in their communities. They must do a pretty good job if the death rate is as low as it is."

On reports of grotesque abortion attempts and the injuries and deaths they produced.
Dr. Calderone: "Whatever trouble arises usually comes after self-induced abortions, which comprise approximately 8 per cent, or with the very small percentage that go to some kind of non-medical abortion."

On the need for adequate pre-abortion counseling.
Dr. Calderone: "Conference members agreed, and this was backed up by evidence from the Scandinavians, that when a woman seeking an abortion is given the chance of talking over her problem with a properly trained and oriented person, she will in the process very often resolve many of her qualms and will spontaneously decide to see the pregnancy through, particularly if she is assured that supportive help will continue to be available to her."

On the importance of helping women resolve their concerns and, if possible, avoid abortion.
Dr. Calderone: "Aside from the fact that abortion is the taking of a life, I am also mindful of what was brought out by our psychiatrists -- that in almost every case, abortion, whether legal or illegal, is a traumatic experience that may have severe consequences later on."

There you have it, folks!

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