Although the American Medical Association (AMA) today consistently promotes abortion rights, the historical record shows that state laws overturned by Roe v. Wade were initially passed because of AMA’s advocacy, writes Frederick Dyer, Ph.D., in the fall issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.
In 1859, AMA published a Report on Criminal Abortion. A criminal abortion was any abortion not done to save the life of mother or child.
Between 1860 and 1880, this AMA campaign against abortion resulted in at least 40 anti-abortion statutes being placed upon state and territorial law books. These mostly remained in effect until overturned by Roe v. Wade, Dr. Dyer writes.
Boston physician Dr. Horatio Robinson Storer, the key activist in this campaign, wrote that fetal life commences at conception, and “we are compelled to believe unjustifiable abortion always a crime.”
In January 1860 the AMA sent a Memorial written by Dr. Storer and signed by AMA President Henry Miller to all governors and legislatures, which stated: “The moral guilt of Criminal Abortion depends entirely upon the real and essential nature of the act. It is the intentional destruction of a child within its parent; and physicians are now agreed, from actual and various proof, that the child is alive from the moment of conception. The evil to society of this crime is evident from the fact, that its instances in this country are now to be counted by hundreds of thousands.”
Dr. Dyer writes that this Memorial must be considered the most important document for securing the stringent laws against abortion that were passed over the next few decades. Yet it was not published in the Transactions of the American Medical Association or anywhere else. Dr. Dyer found blank copies of the Memorial and a related Address to state medical societies among papers that were preserved by Dr. Storer’s grandchildren and loaned to Dr. Dyer, who wrote a biography of Dr. Storer.
The first publication of these historic documents in a medical journal is in Dr. Dyer’s article.
The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons is published by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a national organization representing physicians in all specialties since 1943.