Document Sample
					                        books in review
                                  Anne Barbeau Gardiner
     The Road to Hitler Was Paved With Abortions

Cultures of Abortion in Weimar            of civil servants and 72 percent of the    forth by the Reich Health Council al-
Germany. By Cornelie Usborne.             wives of workers used contraceptives.      lowed abortions “on the strictest
Berghahn Books. 284 pages. $90.           No surprise then that in 1927 the law      health grounds,” only if approved by
                                          was changed to allow contraceptives        two doctors. In 1926 the law on abor-
      In her research for Cultures of     to be advertised, though some of           tions was mollified, and in 1927 the
Abortion, Cornelie Usborne examined       these, like the uterine coil, were also    Supreme Court allowed doctors to
literary works, movies, trial docu-       abortifacient.                             perform “therapeutic” abortions. Ger-
ments, medical records, social work-             A steep decline in the population   man law on abortion became “one of
ers’ notes, police interviews, and        was inevitable: those who married          the most liberal in the world” because
newspapers from the years of the          before 1905 averaged 4.7 children per      doctors could easily convince officials
Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. She           family; those who married in 1925-         that any abortion was necessary for
consulted archives both in Protestant     1929, only two. The top civil servants     “health” reasons.
Prussia and Saxony and in Catholic        who married before 1905 averaged 3.5
Bavaria and the Prussian Rhineland.       children; those who married in 1925-       Specious Names for Vile Things
Although she is pro-abortion and          1929, only 1.6. In Protestant Ohren              Men find it hard to look evil in
thinks reality is “socially con-          in 1910, 389 villagers had 86 children     the eye and call it by its true name. It
structed,” her research is valuable be-   in school; in 1925, 382 villagers had      was no different in early 20th-century
cause it shows how the groundwork         only 36. Two million men had died in       Germany, where women spoke of the
for Adolf Hitler’s eugenic-abortion       the trenches in World War I, yet in        need to “curb coercive procreation” by
policies was laid.                        1919 a feminist hailed the decline in      legalizing abortion. Coercive here
      But even before abortion was an     the birthrate as “the greatest, non-       meant having to bear to term a child
issue, contraception was “big busi-       violent revolution” achieved by
ness” in Germany prior to World War       women, one that gave them “control
I, due to “Neomalthusian propa-           of life.” No wonder the Weimar Re-
ganda.” In 1913 Max Marcuse inter-        public was distinguished by “the low-
viewed 100 women in Berlin and            est birth rate in the Western world.”      Anne Barbeau Gardiner, a Contrib-
found that all but three used contra-     With this fall in birthrate came “a new    uting Editor of the NOR, is Profes-
ceptives — forty of them also admit-      hedonism in women’s sexuality.”            sor Emerita of English at John Jay
ted to having had “one or several                Contraception, of course, was       College of the City University of New
abortions.” In 1914 Oskar Polano in-      not foolproof, so abortions multiplied     York. She has published on Dryden,
terviewed 500 women in Würzburg           and “official disapproval” of them fal-    Milton, and Swift, as well as on
and found that 81 percent of the wives    tered. In 1917 new guidelines set          Catholics of the 17th century.

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