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that we are here facing a great and permanent fact in civilized life.
With every rise in civilization, indeed with all evolutionary progress
whatever, there is what seems to be an automatic fall in the birth-rate.
That fall is always normally accompanied by a fall in the death-rate, so
that a low birth-rate frequently means a high rate of natural increase,
since most of the children born survive.
Thus in the civilized world of today, notwithstanding the low birth-rate
which prevails as compared with earlier times, the rate of increase in
the population is still appalling--nearly half a million a year in Great
Britain, over a million in Austro-Hungary, and three-quarters of a
million in Germany. When we examine this excess of births in detail we
find among them a large proportion of undesired and undesirable
children. There are two alternative methods working to diminish this
proportion: the method of regulating conception under the methods of
scientific Birth Control, or the bungling substitutes for the same, on
the one hand, and the method of preventing live births after conception
by means of the abominable practice of abortion.
There can be no doubt about the enormous extension of the practice of
abortion in all civilized countries, even although some of the
extravagant estimates of its frequency in countries, the United States
for example, be discarded as unwarranted. The burden of bearing
excessive children on the overworked and underfed mothers of the working
classes becomes at last so intolerable that almost anything seems better
than another child. As a woman in Yorkshire once said to an English
investigator of this evil: "I'd rather swallow the druggist's shop and
the man in it, than have another kid."
A community which takes upon itself the responsibility of encouraging
abortion lays itself open to severe criticism. And it must be admitted
that just as all those who work for Birth Control are really diminishing
the frequency of abortion, so every attempt to discourage Birth Control
promotes abortion. We have to approach this problem calmly, in the light
of Nature and reason. We have each of us to decide on which side to
range ourselves. For it is a vital problem concerning which we cannot
afford to be indifferent.
There is no desire here to exaggerate the importance of Birth Control.
It is not a royal road to the millennium of the race; and like all other
measures which the course of progress forces us to adopt, it has its
disadvantages. But fairness and honest thought should admit freely that
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