The BLOG: Voices

Boston’s rich history in the pro-life movement

Thank you NewBostonPost for inviting me to provide a series of entries on important historical events that had their origin in Boston. This blog on Boston’s and the nation’s first pro-life movement will interest Boston and New England readers for several reasons. One is that the 19th century movement, “The Physicians’ Crusade Against Abortion,” led to the state laws against abortion that were overturned in 1973 by Roe v. Wade. During the century that these laws were in effect, they saved millions of babies across the U.S. (You may be surprised to learn that abortion was frequent among married Protestant women in the middle of the 19th century.) The additional children born because of the new laws typically married and provided direct ancestors for many of us who are alive today. Boston’s and Harvard’s Horatio Robinson Storer, M.D., was the major impetus for the physicians’ crusade against abortion and the laws that resulted. It can and will be argued that Dr. Storer was one of the most important figures of the 19th century.

Another reason to read this blog is that the pro-life basis of the movement has been intentionally obscured and denied by a number of writers unwilling to accept or admit that it was concern for the unborn that led to passage of the state and territory abortion laws. This was one of the major reasons that Villanova law professor, Joseph W. Dellapenna, wrote his 2006 book, “Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History.” Dispelling of such myths is also a major objective of this blog.

Another reason is that readers who are descendants of or who have information about the pro-life Greenville, Rhode Island physician, John Preston Leonard (1819-1851), might have information such as letters or other documents that might connect him to Dr. Storer (1830-1922). Dr. Storer was the major influence leading the American Medical Association and state medical societies to successfully lobby for stringent laws protecting the unborn from conception. In 1851, Dr. Leonard provided a blueprint for Dr. Storer’s pro-life efforts that commenced in 1857. It is possible that the two men knew each other. I am hoping that a reader who is a descendant of Dr. Leonard or someone who is aware of Dr. Leonard’s frequent Boston visits can connect Dr. Leonard to Dr. Storer. My efforts so far in this have not been successful, although as you will learn, I speculate that that was the case.

Another reason is that readers will learn that Dr. Storer not only founded the physicians’ crusade against abortion, he also can be considered the founder of American gynecology. He started the first society devoted to gynecology, the Gynaecological Society of Boston, and the first gynecology journal, “The Journal of the Gynaecological Society of Boston.” Storer’s dual concerns prompted me to call my biography of Dr. Storer, “Champion of Women and the Unborn.” As this blog will show, many entries in “The Journal of the Gynaecological Society of Boston” condemned abortion in Boston and New England. It is ironic that gynecology societies today frequently are among the strongest defenders of abortion. One notable exception is the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG). Their website provides a directory of pro-life gynecologists.

Well, the blog has begun. Hope you will check on future entries.

Frederick N. Dyer

Frederick N. Dyer

Dr. Frederick N. Dyer obtained his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Michigan State University in 1968 before applying his research skills to the history of abortion in the U.S. He has authored the books “Champion of Women and the Unborn: Horatio Robinson Storer, M.D.” and “The Physicians’ Crusade Against Abortion.”