Showing posts with label prolife. Show all posts
Showing posts with label prolife. Show all posts

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Status of the Unborn in 18th Century France

Anatomie des parties de la génértion de l’homme
et de la femme
by Jacques Fabien Gautier D'Agoty

I am researching the evolution of attitudes towards the unborn in order to understand how changing attitudes towards them led to the loosening of abortion laws in France and other parts of the world. Catholic France in the 18th century had much more to say about the unborn than 18th century Protestant England. The French were not only concerned with the unborn because of abortion; they were concerned about the unborn because of the desire to baptize all babies, and because of issues of succession. An unborn baby could inherit under specific circumstances, and the mother stood to benefit from the child’s inheritance.

Before I delve into the nature moral status of the unborn, it is important to clarify some issues regards what the people knew about embryology. There was quite a bit of confusion on the matter. There were those who believed that life began at conception, due to the philosophical conclusions of 17th century writers. But there was no empirical proof of this. And because there lacked empirical proof that human life began at conception, there was some doubt about the timing of the animation of the embryo. The timing of animation was considered when an embryo became a human being.  As cell theory was not developed until the 1840’s, the 18th century scientist who researched embryology considered the presence of functioning organs as proof of life.   But scientists knew that the conceptus existed before the development of these organs.  Many writers uncertain as to whether this conceptus constituted a life or not.  

The three main theories of development were ovism, spermatism and epigenetics. Epigenetics—not to be confused with modern field of epigenetics—considers that the embryo is not pre-existent, that elements like the sperm and the egg somehow make it possible for this new entity to acquire human characteristics. Ovism and spermatism held that the embryo, or its germ, pre-existed in either the egg or the sperm, respectively, and that the fertilization process essentially allowed for the unfolding of an entity that already existed. The fact that the embryo pre-existed did not mean that scientists held that the embryo was animated. Ensoulment was proven by the presence of human form. Thus, when researchers or theologians discussed “formed” or “unformed” embryos, they were discussing whether the embryo was human or non-human.

This presence of the human form was central to the French idea of the unborn.  Legally, an embryo was considered to be “formed” and thus animated at 40 days past conception [1] because they had an organized body, that is, a head, torso, arms and legs.  [2]

Although the unborn were considered to be human beings once they were formed, they were not considered juridical persons. Heavily influenced by Roman Law, France considered that birth conferred rights [3]. That being said, even though the unborn, of himself, did not possess rights, he was considered to possess rights in anticipation of his birth when it was in his interest to have them. [4]

And it was under this concept of anticipated rights that abortion was criminalized in France. But only those considered after 40 days of conception were considered true homicides;[5]. Those committed before that time were likened to homicide, but not considered a genuine murder.  For abortions after formation, both the mother and the abortionist could be subject to the death penalty. [6]

France had a peculiar way of prosecuting abortion (not to say infanticide.) According to an edict of 1556, a woman who was pregnant out of wedlock was obliged to report her pregnancy to authorities; if she failed to do so, and her offspring was found dead, she was automatically assumed to be guilty of child murder, whether the child was viable or not. This assumption of guilt was to compensate for the difficulty in prosecuting abortion cases. It was assumed that since a single woman who intended abortion or infanticide would hide her pregnancy, the remedy was to make sure that she did not hide her pregnancy, in which case she would be far less likely to abort her children. If she did not declare her pregnancy, nothing would happen to her if her child were born alive; but if the child were born dead, she would have to prove her innocence.

Laws about abortion were no the only ways in which French society showed its concern for the unborn. There was a great degree of anxiety among pious Catholics about making sure all children were baptized, including miscarried babies and those being birthed who were in danger of death. Great pains were taken to ensure that these children received the sacrament. For instance, babies who were in danger of death during labour were baptized by the midwife or obstetrician; if the head could not be reached, they used a syringe or sponge to apply the water in the womb. If the mother died in labour, the child was to be extracted, either naturally or through c-section. If the baby was miscarried, baptism was supposed to be performed, either absolutely or conditionally.

But these values were held by an informed elite and were not necessarily shared by the masses. For instance, it was not uncommon for miscarried babies to be thrown into the privy, unexamined and unbaptized after miscarriage [7].  Considering that several guides had to be written encouraging the baptism of these children, it suggests that the practice was not commonplace [8]; if it had to be repeatedly said by many writers that baptism was necessary, it is because the populace was ignorant.

So what we see then is that institutionally, French society was pro-life: the law upheld the humanity of the unborn and criminalized abortion, but did not consider fetuses to be persons. Medical personnel and the Church promoted the baptism of the unborn and miscarried; but the general population were not necessarily aware of these points of view.   

[1] Daniel Jousse, Traité de la justice criminelle de France, Volume 4, Paris: 1771, P. 20;  Pierre Jean J.G. Guyot, Répertoire universel et raisonné de jurisprudence civile, criminelle, canonique et bénéficiale, Volume 4, Paris: 1776, p. 147 in footnote.
[2] M. La Fosse, "Avortement," Supplément à L'Encyclopédie Ou Dictionnaire Raisonné Des Sciences, Des Arts Et Des Métiers, Volume 1, Paris, 1776, p. 718.
[3] Massuet, Pierre. La Science Des Personnes De Cour, D'Epée Et De Robe Amsterdam: 1752, p. 10. 
[4] D'Aguesseau, "Essai sur l'état des Personnes," Oeuvres,  Vol. 5 p.  443. Massuet, p. 10
[5] D'Aguesseau, p. 447.
[6] D'Aguesseau, p. 455, 461.
[8] Jerome Florentini wrote the first major work on this topic in 1658: On Doubtful Men, or On the Baptism of Abortuses; then Francesco Cangiamila wrote his opus Sacred Embryology in 1751 which was translated into French by Abbé Dinouart in 1762. Bl. Jean-Martin Moye, inspired by this work, wrote his own pamphlet in 1764. Midwives and accoucheurs had to be reminded to baptize the unborn and the miscarried; See for example: Marguerite de la Marche,. Instruction familiere et utile aux sages-femmes pour bien pratiquer les accouchemens. 1710, p.101ff;  Fran?ois-Ange Deleurye, Traité des accouchemens, en faveur des eleves, Paris: 1777, p. 719;   Angélique Marguerite Le Boursier du Coudray, Abbregé de l'art des acchouchemens, Saintes: 1779, page vii and page 89.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Medicalization of Abortion in 19th Century France

[For the purposes of this blogpost, I am using a medical definition of “abortion” as the expulsion of a non-viable fetus, as opposed to the Catholic definition (“an attack on the fetus”). This is for the sake of brevity and clarity, and also because this is how 19th century physicians would have defined it.]

In the first half of the 19th century, France was a very conservative country when it came to the unborn. Although abortions were performed for emergency situations, especially to save the mother’s life, these abortions were not officially sanctioned by the Academy of Medicine, the French national medical association.

This all changed in 1852. At that time, an obstetrician by the name of Lenoir submitted a report to the Academy of Medicine regarding a premature expulsion of a non-viable fetus on a woman whose pelvic diameter was only 5 centimetres, which was too narrow to allow for natural childbirth at term. (I blogged about this case here./187/2016/12/the-launch-of-abortion-debate-in-france.html#more) He wanted the Academy members to discuss his paper at the society’s weekly meetings with the goal of officially legitimizing this procedure so that other physicians would have no hesitation in performing the same operation when faced with the same dilemma.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Blessed Jean-Martin Moye: Advocate for the Unborn

Blessed Jean-Martin Moye (1730-1793) is remembered by the Church as the founder of the Sisters of the Congregation of Divine Providence. As a missionary in China, he organized the first group of Chinese religious sisters.

But this figure also had a stint as an advocate of the unborn. In 1764, while he was a priest in Metz, France, he published a pamphlet entitled On the Extreme Care That We Must Have For the Baptism of Children in the Case of Miscarriage or in the Death of a Pregnant Woman. (I translated it-- please read it!)  He was mostly likely inspired by Francisca Cangiamila’s book Sacred Embryology, which addresses this very topic.

As the title suggests, Moye was trying to encourage people to baptize the babies of dead, pregnant women, as well as miscarried babies.

Regarding when the body is animated with the soul, he cites a number of possibilities: 40 days, 30 days, and even conception (which is a belief that can be traced back to the 17th century.) But he says that the most competent physicians state that animation begins at 20 days.

He does not explain why they think animation happens at 20 days. But I have a theory.

Before the age of cell theory, life was defined, biologically, according to whether an entity had functioning organs. It only makes sense: organisms have organs. The heart is the first organ to develop. In humans, it starts working at about three weeks or 21 days. The presence of a functioning heart would indicate the presence of a human soul. This is perhaps why physicians believe animation occurred at 20 days.

Even though this pamphlet corresponds to Catholic teaching, Father Moye was demoted by his bishop for publishing it. His enemies complained to his bishop about unfair comments about midwives and clergy in the pamphlet. For this, and other “transgressions”, he was appointed vicar of Dieuze, a fairly isolated village, away from the action in Metz.   He was, in effect, penalized for his zeal.

What I find interesting about this person is that he is an example of a saint who took seriously the idea that the unborn are human beings before their birth. Institutionally, this was of course the Church’s official stance. But judging from the need to write about this topic, it does not seem that, on the ground, priests routinely baptized the miscarried, or encouraged the faithful to do so. If they had done that, there would be no need to write a pamphlet encouraging the practice.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

An 18th Century Poem On Miscarriage

I will follow up the blogpost on the 18th century poem on abortion with the 18 century poem on miscarriage. It was published in the November 1787 issue of The Gentleman's Magazine in London. No author was listed.

Untimely sever'd from its mother's womb,
Behold a foetus in its liquid tomb.
Let those who beauty, valour, wisdom prize,
See from whence beauty, valour, wisdom arise;
The little embryo of a future king
Must grow to power from so small a thing.
Whether to float in spirits, or to reign,
Depends at last but on a mother's strain;
Nor does the wreck of life more beauteous shew,
Dissect a belle, anatomise a beaux,
The rattling bones, beside the foetus plac'd,
Those rattling bones, which erst a ball-room grac'd, -
The sad remains of what was call'd divine,
Perhaps descended from a royal line;
If free in choice, which hadst thou rather been,
This still-born foetus, or that wretched queen,
To live in pain, with anxious cares oppress'd
By turns exulting, and by turns distress’d;
The sport of fortune, or the but of fate,
 A slave to folly or a tool of state?
Or say, when all the ills of life you view,
My dearest partner, now I turn to you,
Dost thou not envy this embryo's state,
Deriving pleasure from his certain fate?
It broke a fibre from thy womb to part,
But had it liv'd, it might have broke thy heart.
Let us this maxim in our minds instil,

Whatever Heaven does, cannot be ill.

Monday, November 27, 2017

18th Century Poem Expresses Abortion Regret

The following poem was published in the January 1740 issue of The Gentleman's Magazine in London. No author is listed.

* On a Child killed by procured Abortion, in order to hide the Mother's Shame who had been debauched. Supposed to be spoken by the Mother. 

Thou! whose eyes were clos'd in death's pale night,
Ere fate reveal’d thee to my aching fight;
Ambiguous something, by no standard fix’d,
Frail span!  of nought, and of existence mix’d;
Embryo, imperfect as my tort’ring thought,
Sad outcast of existence and of nought;
Thou, who to guilty love first ow'st thy frame,
Whom guilty honour kills to hide its shame,
Dire offspring!  form'd by love's too pleasing pow'r!
Honour's dire victim in a luckless hour!
 Soften the pangs that still revenge thy doom:
Nor, from the dark abyss of nature's womb,
Where back I cast thee, let revolving time
Call up past scenes to aggravate my crime.
Two adverse tyrants rul’d thy wayward fate,
Thyself a helpless victim to their hate;
Love, in spite of honour's dictates, gave thee breath;
Honour, in spite of love, pronounc'd thy death.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Early 20th Century: The Fetus was Unknown Because Pregnancy was Censored...

So I have been busy doing some historical research. I just got back a paper I wrote on fetal imagery—specifically Lennart Nilsson’s photoessay in an April 1965 issue of Life magazine. One thing that I learned that was very surprising to me was the degree to which pregnancy—and by extension the unborn—had little visual presence in the first half of the twentieth century. I was very surprised when I realized the degree to which all things having to do with pregnancy was shrouded in secrecy. Two examples to illustrate:

Saturday, September 30, 2017

China to Give Property Rights to Fetuses

A new Civil Code goes into effect October 1, 2017 in China. 

In this new civil code, the unborn will, for legal purposes, be counted as born for purposes of succession and gifts. However, there's a catch: they must not be born dead. Still, the Chinese code is a step above the Canadian system.

In Canada, the unborn must be born first before they can legally recognized for events that occurred before their birth. This is known as the "born-alive rule." This is not the case in China. In China an unborn baby may inherit and would be considered the legal heir throughout the pregnancy, so long as he does not die. If he dies before birth, he loses his legal rights. I suppose this was done to protect the legality of abortion.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

VIDEO: Davenport Hooker's Fetal Experiments

In the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's anatomist Davenport Hooker filmed a number of fetuses produced from induced and spontaneous abortions to document fetal behaviour. They were aged between 8.5 and 14 weeks (LMP). It represents the first time in history that the unborn were seen on film. They were dying of course, but they were not quite dead when Hooker had them poked and prodded for science. The explanations in the video are little bit tedious, but the images are well worth waiting for (they start at about the three minute mark.) I would not put too much stock in the menstrual age-- it can be unreliable. I was especially struck by the older children, and how bothered they seemed to be by the needle.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Paolo Zacchia on Abortion and the Unborn in 17th Century Italy

Paola Zacchia (1584-1659)  was a well-respected Roman medical expert. Three times he was named Proto-physician – 1638, 1658 and 1659.  He was effectively the “Surgeon-General” of the Holy See, supervising all things medical in the papal states. Between 1621 and 1650 he published his most famous work Quaestiones Medico-Legales, a compendium of medical-legal knowledge, covering a vast array of subjects. It was published in three tomes that in total contained nine books. It as a mammoth work of reference, and as soon as the first book was published in 1621, it was an international best-seller—translated into a number of languages and re-printed in several editions right into the eighteenth century. It has earned him the title of Father of Forensic Medicine.

This background information is important to know, because his words would be highly influential on a host of subjects, including abortion.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Pro-Life Victory! Ontario Court Strikes Down Law That Mandates Abortion Stats Censorship

Way to go Pat Maloney and ARPA Canada for their hard work! 

An Ontario Court has struck down the statute that prohibited the public from obtaining abortion stats by access to information requests.

It's only been two hours since I have received the news, and I have no information as to whether the government will appeal. Indeed, the media has not reported on it yet. I would somewhat surprised if there was nothing about this in the media.

If this ruling is not appealed, it will allow all Ontarians-- both those for and against abortion to be able to obtain useful information for public discussion.

Everybody should support this court ruling.

This opens the door to more detailed access to information requests. Indeed, I think the statute was written in response to Pat's requests. The government wants to keep the situation on abortion a secret.

Gestational ages, the birth outcomes of late-term abortion victims, i.e. whether they lived or died, these are all salient features about abortion that the public has the right to know.

I would encourage activists in all provinces and territories to make their own requests. This has been a viable avenue of activism.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Pro-Lifers: Don't Get TOO Excited Over an Andrew Scheer Win

The victory of Andrew Scheer in the Conservative Party Leadership is about the best outcome that pro-lifers could have expected.

It's not just that he won. But we won with the second- and third-place votes of people like Pierre Lemieux and Brad Trost-- whom I was shocked to see go eleven rounds. (And I was rooting for him!)

He proved that social conservatives are still an important force in the party.

We can pat ourselves on the back for our effort to mobilize the vote.

That being said, there are two realities we must bear in mind about an Andrew Scheer victory.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Another Feminist Distortion on the History of the Ultrasound...

I interrupt my blogging hiatus to comment on this article in The Atlantic entitled: How Ultrasound Became Political. (According to my facebook feed, the original title seems to have been How the Ultrasound Pushed the Idea that a Fetus is a Person.)

I will limit my comments to historical aspects of the article, otherwise I will have to write a lengthy essay.

Moira Weigel is a PhD candidate Comparative Literature and Film and Media Studies. She is not a historian. In my experience, literature and arts students are notorious for making historical claims that are not backed up by the facts.

First, let’s address the title: How Ultrasound Became Political. In fairness, it may not even be her title. Ultrasound has been political for a very long time. Ian Donald, the inventor of the ultrasound, used it to campaign against abortion in the 1970s.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Sacred Embryology by Francesco Cangiamila

Francesco Cangiamila

Translated into French by Abbé Joseph Dinouart, 1766. Second French Edition.
Originally published in Sicilian in 1745 and in Latin in 1758.

In this day and age, the most salient issue for pro-lifers is abortion. No other issue concerning the unborn comes in at a close second. In the 18th century, things were different. Pro-lifers-- those preoccupied with the fate of the unborn-- had a completely different issue. Their main concern was making sure that every child received baptism, including those babies whose mothers died in labour, and who risked being unbirthed.

Hence: Sacred Embryology; subtitled: Or a Treaty on the Duties of Priests, Physicians, Surgeons Midwives Towards Children in the Womb of their Mothers. It was originally written in Italian by Francesco Cangiamila of Palermo, Sicily, where he worked as the Archdiocesan inquisitor.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Launch of the Abortion Debate in France in the Nineteenth Century

Anglosphere conceives of the abortion debate as something that primarily takes place in the twentieth century. There was virtually no debate that abortion was ever acceptable. If abortions did take place, doctors just did what they thought they had to do, and kept quiet about it.

In France, the situation was quite different.

Monday, December 05, 2016

How Did We Get to Roe v. Wade Anyway?

Glanville Williams

How did we start down the road to Roe v. Wade anyway?

In the 1940's and 1950's, abortion was generally opposed, and there wasn't a lot of outspoken support for it. There were abortions being done in hospitals for medical reasons, but not the abortion on demand that we know today. Women sought abortions for social reasons, but there was a a lot of social stigma for doing so, and you had to know someone to be able to find an abortionist. Opposition to abortion was based on affirming human life but also on not enabling loose sexual mores. 

And on top of that, the only regimes that legalized abortion were communist regimes (and Japan). That stigmatized abortion, too.

The man who broke the ice on abortion in the United States was an eminent legal scholar by the name of Glanville Williams who taught at Cambridge University in English . He was a Welsh-born humanist who had written a famous book called The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law.  In it, he criticized Catholic opposition to sterilization, contraception, euthanasia and-- of course-- abortion. It was seen as the basis for the criminalization of all these procedures.  In 1956, Glanville Williams gave a  presentation during Carpenter lecture at Columbia University, in which he called for the reform of abortion law. He said, among other things, that the unborn were not persons until the 28th week of pregnancy, because they had no EEG activity. He would, of course, be proven wrong. But this lecture got the ball rolling in legal circles in the United States. It led to the American Law Institute's adoption of a resolution to call for abortion law reform in the United States in 1959.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Francesco-Emmanuele Cangiamila: Obscure But Important Figure in ProLife History

In researching my Timeline of Pro-Life History, I came across a number of people whom nobody has ever heard of, but whose influence on the welfare of the unborn was monumental.

And one of these figures is Father Francesco-Emmanuele Cangiamila (1702-1763).

Friday, November 25, 2016

How We Came to Believe That Life Begins at Conception

The belief that life begins at conception is at the heart of the pro-life cause. But I'm amazed that virtually nobody has asked themselves how we came to believe in it. It's rather taken for granted.

Many people assume that the origin of the belief lies in the dogmas of the Incarnation and the Immaculate Conception. While these dogmas reinforced the belief in the value of pre-natal life, they were never reference points for natural philosophy or science.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Timeline of Pro-Life History: An Introduction

This Timeline of Pro-Life History is my humble attempt to document those events relevant to the rights, welfare and cause of the unborn.

Every other human group seems to have a history dedicated to it, it seems that it's about time for the unborn to have history written about them as well.

In this timeline, I focused on events. So it doesn't give the whole picture: not the trends, or statistics, or general practices. I simply wanted to give people an idea of what a history of the unborn could look like; what type of events, ideas and discoveries contributed to the situation of the unborn today. One might think that the history of the unborn would focus solely on abortion. I have found that to be untrue. There is a lot to write about the unborn, and a lot left to be studied and written.

Rather than write a book, I thought it was more useful and expedient to write an accessible and searchable survey of the history of the unborn. I started from the Christian era because when one writes a chronology, dating is very important, and dates can be very uncertain in the Ancient period. There is a lack of information for late antiquity and the early Middle Ages. I mostly focused on those periods for which I knew I could get information easily: The late Middle Ages, the Early Modern and Modern periods and especially contemporary history.

I scanned a number of academic (and non-academic) sources to cull these dates. But my most important source was the archives of I scanned every headline page from 1998 to 2016 (up to the election of Donald Trump.)  I tried to focus on the important events, the ones that have an impact on either the legal or cultural situation of the unborn.

If you like my Timeline, please share it. I also encourage you to blog about pro-life history. In the 1980's it was often said: If abortion is murder, act like it! Well, we can't stop abortion right now. I would simply like to rephrase that and say: If the unborn are human, act like it! Write their history! I promise you right now there is a historiographical effort to denigrate the unborn and their rights. If we can't have the unborn respected through politics or popular culture, we can do it through history.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Commentary on Anne Stensvold's History of Pregnancy in Christianity

Madonna del Parto Unknown Master, Italian (late 15th century in Valsesia)

Rather than write a book review, which would require more time than I care to spend on this blogpost, I thought I'd comment on one aspect of the book.

The History of Pregnancy in Christianity is an attempt to discuss the Christian conceptualization of pregnancy throughout the ages, viewed through a doctrinal lense.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Need Help Researching Paolo Zacchia -- The Father of Forensic Medicine-- Latin Readers Sought

I spent last night and today reading up about Paolo Zacchia, the Father of Forensic Medicine. He was the personal physician to Pope Innocent X and Pope Alexander VII and legal advsior to the Roman Rota-- what you might call the Catholic Church's Supreme Court.

In 1621, he published a book entitled Quaestionaes Medico-Légales, which expounds on medical knowledge as it pertains to Canon and Civil Law. (This is Volume 2).

In a number of publications, he is said to a proponent of the belief that life begins at conception. (For example here, here, and here.

On the other hand, this author says

Even after formation, moreover, the foetus was something less than a full person in civil law. Jurists discussed the haziness of this boundary; the eminent Lombard jurist Giacomo Menochio (d. 1607) and the Roman forensics expert Zacchia both debated whether one should speak of a ‘child’ (Latin, infans) and ‘person’ (homo) from conception, from quickening or only from birth; Zacchia held to the last of the three, even as he noted that ‘some physicians’ call it a child ‘once it is complete in the uterus, with all its members formed’.107
 [UPDATE: A Commenter on my facebook page remarked that "homo" does not translate into "person" but "man" i.e. "human being."]

The problem with Paolo Zacchias according to medical historian Jaclyn Duffin is that he is quite unknown in English speaking historiagraphy. He's referred to in scholarly works, often in a footnote, but practically no one has written anything about him, and there's scant biographical information about him.

His Quaestiones remains untranslated in English.

So if there's anyone out there among my readers who knows Latin well, I would appreciate knowing the exact passage (including Latin passage) in which Zacchia argues that life begins at conception, and, whether he considers an embryo a child, and in what contexts-- i.e. only legally or as regards baptism,etc. The section dealing with fetuses seems to begin around page 685.