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Foeticide Or Criminal Abortion

This consists in giving to any woman, or causing to be taken by her,

with intent to procure her miscarriage, any poison or other noxious

thing, or using for the same purpose any instruments or other means

whatsoever. It is a felony to procure or attempt to procure the

miscarriage of a woman, whether she be pregnant or not, and it is a

felony for the woman, if pregnant, to attempt to procure her own

miscarriage. It is a
misdemeanour for any person or persons to procure

drugs or instruments for a like purpose. It is not necessary that the

woman be quick with child. The offence is the intent to procure the

miscarriage of any woman, whether she be or be not with child. When

from any causes it is necessary to procure abortion, a medical man

should do so only after consultation with a brother practitioner. Even

in these cases there is no exemption legally. Any medical man who gives

even the most harmless medicine where he suspects the possibility of

pregnancy may render himself liable to grave suspicion should the woman


In medicine, an abortion is said to occur when the foetus is expelled

before the sixth month; after that it is premature birth. In law,

however, any expulsion of the contents of the uterus before the full

time is an abortion or miscarriage.

In deciding whether any substance expelled from the uterus is really a

foetus or a mole, and therefore the result of conception, or the coat of

the uterus, and unconnected with pregnancy, the examination of the

substances expelled must be carefully made. Moles are blighted foetuses.

An examination of the woman will be necessary, though it is not easy

during the early months of pregnancy, and especially in those who have

borne children, to say whether abortion has taken place or not. The

history must be inquired into; the regular or exceptional use of drugs

to promote menstruation is important, for in the former case no criminal

intent may exist, although pregnancy be present. The state of the

breasts, the hymen, and the os uteri, should all be carefully examined.

Putting a few apparently unimportant questions as to the frequent use of

purgatives, the presence or absence of constipation, will often assist

the diagnosis as showing that the woman has acted in an unusual manner.

Abortion may be procured by the introduction of instruments, by falls,

violent exercise, blows on the abdomen, etc. In the hands of ignorant

persons the use of instruments (sounds, bougies, skewers, etc.) is

attended with great danger. Perforation of the vaginal walls, bladder,

cervix, or uterus, may follow their use. Septic pelvic peritonitis may

ensue, and the woman may lose her life. The person who has employed such

means for inducing abortion is liable to be charged with the crime of

murder. There is no evidence to show that ergot, savin, bitter-apple,

pennyroyal, or any other drug administered internally, will cause a

woman to abort, except when taken in such large doses that actual

poisoning results, with inflammation of the contents of the true

pelvis. In such cases reflex uterine contractions may be set up, and

abortion may follow. Diachylon pills are largely employed to induce

abortion, and very often the woman taking them suffers severely from