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June 8, 1964

Criminal Abortion: A Study in Medical Sociology

JAMA. 1964;188(10):940. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03060360100034

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Abstract

More than 25 years have elapsed since Dr. Bourne, an eminent London obstetrician, was found not guilty after having performed an abortion on a 14-year-old girl who had become pregnant after a particularly brutal rape. In this country no state has specifically legalized an abortion for pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. It is extremely likely, however, that many victims of such crimes have been aborted upon the medical, or more accurately psychiatric, opinion that the operation is necessary to preserve the patient's life. Our society tends to express vigorous condemnation of criminal abortion until confronted with a personally or socially unacceptable pregnancy.

This book is not an emotional diatribe. It is, rather, an interesting and, at times, penetrating study of attitudes toward abortion—attitudes of the public, of religious groups, of physicians and medical organizations, of coroners and medical examiners, of police, of "patients," and of abortionists themselves. It reports

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