The question of abortion, that is, artificially induced miscarriages, evoked great interest and called forth many debates at the Pirogov Medical Congress. The reporter Luchkus presented data showing widespread practice of abortion in so-called civilized countries. There were eighty thousand abortions in New York in a year, and 36,000 in a month in France. In St. Petersburg the percentage of abortions doubled in the last five years.
The Pirogov Medical Congress decided that mothers should not be criminally prosecuted for abortions and that doctors should be prosecuted only if they perform abortions for “pecuniary interests.”
The majority at the congress, while arguing against punishment for abortions, naturally touched upon the question of neo-Malthusianism (birth control) as well as the social side of the problem. For instance, M. Vigdorchik, according to the report in the Russkoye Slovo (Russian Word), declared that one must “welcome contraceptive methods” while M. Astrakhan exclaimed, amid a storm of applause: “We are obliged to persuade mothers to give birth to children so that they may be crippled in educational institutions, so that they may be drafted for military service, so that they may be driven to suicide.” . . .
“To give birth to children so that they may be crippled.” . . . Only for this? Why nor so that they may fight better, with greater solidarity, with greater consciousness and decisiveness, against the prevailing conditions of existence which are mutilating and destroying our generation?
Here we have the basic difference between the psychology of the peasant, the artisan, and the intellectual, of the petty-bourgeois generally, and the worker. The petty bourgeois sees and feels that he is perishing, that life is becoming more difficult, the struggle for existence more intolerable, that his own situation and that of his family more and more hopeless. This is an undeniable fact. And the petty bourgeois protests against it.
But how is he protesting?
He is protesting as the representative of a class destined to perish, despairing of its future, beaten and cowardly. The cry of the petty bourgeois is: Nothing can be done about it, so let there be fewer children to suffer our misfortunes and “hard labor,” our poverty and humiliation.
The class-conscious worker is far removed from such a point of view. He will not allow his consciousness to be obscured by such cries, no matter how sincerely and feelingly they may be uttered. Yes, we workers and small owners, too, lead an unbearable life, filled with oppression and suffering. Our generation has fared worse than our fathers. But in one respect we are better off than our parents. We have learned and are learning fast to struggle – and to struggle not singly as the best of our fathers fought, not in the name of petty bourgeois slogans alien to us, but in the name of our own slogans, the slogans of our class. We are fighting better than our fathers did. Our children will fight still better, and they will win. . .
This – and this alone – is why we are the absolute enemies of neo-Malthusianism, this tendency of the philistine couple, hardened and egotistical, who mumble in fright: “We shall somehow hang on, with God’s help, but better not think about children.”
Certainly, this does not prevent us from demanding the complete abolition of all laws prohibiting abortion or the distribution of medical information on birth control, etc. These laws only expose the hypocrisy of the ruling classes. These laws do not cure the diseases of capitalism, but make them especially deadly and grave for the oppressed masses. The freedom of medical information and the defense of the elementary democratic rights of men and women citizens is one thing. The social theory of neo-Malthusianism is something else. Class-conscious workers will always lead the most relentless struggle against any attempt to fasten this reactionary and cowardly teaching upon the class which is most advanced, most powerful, and best prepared for great social changes.