1942 January 30

Dr. Alan Guttmacher Issues Early Call for Legalized Abortion


Dr. Alan Guttmacher, of Johns Hopkins University Medical School, on this day issued an early call for legalized abortion, arguing that it was time end the “patent hypocrisy” of the medical profession on the issue of abortion. Speaking to the annual meeting of the Birth Control Federation of America, Guttmacher emphasized that he sought only legalization of therapeutic  abortions where pregnancy posed a threat to the health or life of the mother.

Coming in 1942, Guttmacher’s statement was one of the earliest calls for legalizing at least some categories of abortion in the U. S. The first major group to recommend an end to criminal abortion laws was the American Law Institute its Model Penal Code (early draft: May 21, 1959), which was published in 1962.

Guttmacher cited estimates that between 100,000 and 250,000 illegal abortions were performed in New York City every year. About 85 percent of the women obtaining an illegal abortion, moreover, were married. Guttmacher argued that legalizing abortion would “cheat the criminal abortionist.”

Ninety percent of the health professionals surveyed by the Birth Control Federation supported using part of federal funds for maternal and child health funds for birth control services.

Guttmacher’s pioneering work on reproductive rights continues today at the Guttmacher Institute. Founded in 1968, and originally a part of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the institute is now an independent organization  with offices in New York City and Washington, DC.

Visit the Guttmacher Institute web site: https://www.guttmacher.org/

Follow a timeline on abortion rights: http://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/history_abortion.html


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