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By Their Fruits

Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign

Ann Farmer

Publication Year: 2011

Though controversial in subject, By Their Fruits presents an important examination of not only the history of abortion legislation but also the history and impact of the Eugenics movement.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

In the heated atmosphere surrounding the abortion debate, it is often forgotten that abortion is a human rights issue. If a pregnant woman is desperately poor and unsupported, to presume that what she needs are abortion rights is surely an abuse of her human rights. ...

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pp. xi-xvi

Divisions on the abortion issue run deeper than disagreements on any other issue of socio-politics at the beginning of the twenty-first century.1 Despite being legalized in most Western countries and with an estimated 45 million legal abortions worldwide every year2—and despite rhetoric about a woman’s right to choose ...

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pp. xvii-xviii

The author is grateful to the Labour Life Group for funding some of the expenses incurred in the early research for this work; to the staff of Redbridge libraries for their assistance; to Angela Kennedy and Stratford Caldecott for help and advice; to Sue Carter and to my husband and family for their unflagging support.


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pp. xix-xxii

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1. Malthusianism and Eugenics: A Preamble

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pp. 1-13

The population control movement has been named after its earliest modern proponent, Thomas Robert Malthus, an English clergyman who wrote at the end of the eighteenth century. Malthus believed that without direct checks on the poor, such as famine, disease, and war, population growth would outstrip food supplies. ...

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2. The Early Abortion Campaign, Backstreet Abortion, and Eugenics

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pp. 14-77

The formal beginnings of the campaign whose effects would be felt worldwide—indeed, could arguably be seen as establishing a new social outlook—were surprisingly modest. The Abortion Law Reform Association (ALRA) was officially inaugurated on February 17, 1936, ...

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3. Abortion, Eugenics, and Democracy

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pp. 78-152

It has been seen that the abortion campaign was the product of eugenic concerns, as were all the reproductive and some of the social campaigns of the early twentieth century; the Eugenics Society, which began by promoting marriage, soon started to emphasize “negative” measures, including segregation, birth control, sterilization, and abortion, ...

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4. The 1967 Abortion Act and Eugenics

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pp. 153-200

Alice Jenkins later admitted that war had “stopped the clock” for abortion reform.1 Despite her claim that ALRA’s wartime talks had been well received, and despite the heady days of the Birkett Enquiry and the Bourne case, there was little sign that the campaign had made a real or lasting impact. ...

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5. After the Act: Abortion, Eugenics, and Population Control

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pp. 201-286

The Abortion Act, although the culmination of a long and arduous campaign, was merely the beginning of a continuous process of rolling back the frontiers of human biology, especially relating to reproductive matters, but also to end-of-life issues. Each step has involved a network of campaigns on ethical issues ...

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6. The Abortion Campaign: Feminism, Eugenics, and Public Policy

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pp. 287-356

The hypothesis for this work is that the predominant influences on the abortion campaign have been eugenics and Malthusianism, and this was found to be the case regarding the early campaign, to the extent that it was part of the eugenics/Malthusian nexus. Even campaigners using feminist arguments employed a eugenics caveat, ...

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7. Beyond Abortion: A Step into Darkness?

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pp. 357-372

The major findings of this study are that the English abortion campaign was the fruit of eugenics and Malthusianism and that it has been sustained by these philosophies through the passage of the Abortion Act, up to the present day. Assumptions that the act was rooted in feminism and socialism stem from the fact ...

Appendix A. A Note on Historical Sources

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pp. 373-376

Appendix B. English Abortion Law: A Summary

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pp. 377-378

Works Consulted

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pp. 379-404


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pp. 405-421

E-ISBN-13: 9780813218496
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813215303

Page Count: 447
Publication Year: 2011