By Dave Andrusko
I wouldn’t expect you to know because lots of people, including me, don’t know or didn’t remember that today is the birthday of Horatio Robinson Storer, M.D. (1830-1922). And if you don’t know who Dr. Storer was, let me briefly tell you about a man who, is like most pro-life heroes, not as well known as he should be.
There is a pro-abortion myth about why protective abortion statutes were passed beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. As much as anyone, author Frederick N.Dyer has dispelled that myth, particularly through his book, “Champion of Women and the Unborn: Horatio Robinson Storer, M.D.”
Between that book and a handy piece he wrote last year, ”How Abortion Became Illegal in the United States: A leading authority on the issue describes the heroic efforts of 19th-century physicians to make abortion against the law,” let me suggest that while there are any number of important points you will learn about what came to be called “The Physicians’ Crusade,” there are two that might be best to highlight.
First, Dyer is talking about a 19th century physician whose role in passing protective state abortion statutes cannot be overstated. Dr. Horatio Robinson Storer “brought the American Medical Association into the fight against abortion in 1857,” Dyer writes.
Dr. Storer’s Report on Criminal Abortion was presented to the AMA in 1859. The Report requested the Association “recommend, by memorial, to the governors and legislatures of the several States, and, as representing the federal district, to the President and Congress, a careful examination and revision of the statutory and of so much of the common law, as relates to this crime.” The AMA did so unanimously.
Second, “Storer, the American Medical Association, and the state/territorial medical associations were wonderfully successful,” Dyer writes. “Connecticut and Pennsylvania passed strict anti-abortion laws in 1860. By 1880, nearly every state and territory had new legislation that made it a serious crime to induce abortions unless the mother’s life was in danger. Most of these stringent state laws against abortion were virtually unchanged until Roe v. Wade overturned them in 1973.”
Take a few minutes of your time to read Dyer’s excellent piece. He gives us a real sense of the difference those laws made, before they were overturned in 1973 by Roe v. Wade:
“This brings us to the legacy of the laws against abortion overturned by Roe v. Wade. From 1860 to at least 1973, those laws saved the lives of millions of babies who would otherwise have been aborted. Most of these millions of babies grew to adulthood. Most married, had children, had grandchildren, had great-grandchildren, and even had great-great-grandchildren. Unless you or your parents are recent immigrants to the U.S., it is fairly certain that one or more of these pregnancy survivors are among your two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and sixteen great-great-grandparents. You, dear reader, are very likely a part of the legacy of the laws that existed before Roe v. Wade.”