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What came before

Richard Bruns wrote to tell us that opposition to abortion was an indication of advancing American fascism. Tom Riley responded by questioning the logic behind such a view. After all, he said, all the Western allies had laws against abortion during World War II. Bruns wrote back and gave a list of Western allies that allowed abortion – citing as his source “History of Abortion, online.”

I plugged “History of Abortion” into my search engine. I also searched for “a sliding case of criteria for cases affecting the physical and/or mental well-being of women” – a convoluted phrase used by the scholar Bruns. I was unable to find the exact list that he presented. This means that Bruns failed to designate his source with adequate precision. Joke is that his purpose is to accuse Riley of this same failure.

Nevertheless, I kept plugging and found a similar list, with the title “Timeline of Reproductive Rights Legislation,” at The page cited Wikipedia as its source. Highfalutin’ stuff, huh?

Sadly for Mr. Bruns, the list at Liquisearch goes into slightly greater detail than he does and exposes some of his own fuzzy thinking.

A lot of this fuzziness was evident on the face of his list. Remember: the question at issue was whether the Western allies in WW2 maintained restrictive abortion laws. Bruns included something about Norway in 1964 – two decades after WW2. He also included the Soviet Union, not a Western nation. Worst of all, he included Nazi Germany as a Western ally. No, Mr. Bruns: that was the enemy.

Bruns’ ineptitude, however, goes deeper. All but one of the measures he attempts to list were restrictive, not permissive. They support Riley, not Bruns. The one exception is Lenin’s blanket legalization of Soviet abortion in 1920. And even this exception doesn’t help Bruns, since Stalin banned abortion again in 1936. During WW2, abortion was not legal in the U.S.S.R.

What did Mexico do in 1920? Banned abortion – with an exception for pregnancies resulting from rape. What did Poland do in 1932? Banned abortion with no explicit exceptions. Iceland in 1935? Doesn’t matter: neutral in WW2. Catalonia in 1936? Doesn’t matter: returned to Spain in 1938, neutral in WW2, not a Western ally. Sweden in 1938? Restricted abortion except in cases of threat to mother’s life, rape, or grave fetal abnormality. France in 1939? Permitted abortion – but only to save the mother’s life.

By the standard of Roe v. Wade, these were all restrictive laws.

I dove a little deeper on Great Britain, our principal ally in WW2. What happened there in 1938? There was no change in the law. Instead, Aleck Bourne, a doctor who’d performed an abortion free of charge on a teenage rape victim, was acquitted. That’s all. Abortion continued to be outlawed under the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 and the Infant Life Preservation Act of 1929. It wasn’t until 1967 that the United Kingdom liberalized its abortion laws.

Aleck Bourne, by the way, later founded England’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and fought against permissive abortion laws.

So Riley was correct. The Western allies all retained restrictive abortion laws during WW2. The anti-fascist nations back then were all monstrous fascists in the judgmental eyes of Richard Bruns.

I found all this information on Wikipedia. See? I’m naming my source. Without going to the library and cracking a book, without even wandering to a different site, Bruns could have found it out for himself. Instead, he delighted in superficiality. He was the one presenting “alternate facts.”

Pretty much par for the course among the pro-abortion crowd.

Michelle Ruth

Richmond, Calif.

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