Dr. Toner On Abortion Analysis

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Dr. Toner and Dr. Walter lived in vastly different sociocultural climates, and analysis of the difference in their use of language to describe abortion-seeking women provides insight changes in perspective on one of the fundamental ethical arguments surrounding the abortion dilemma: a woman’s right to her body over the fetus’s right to life. The use of misogynistic language within Dr. Toner’s 1861 article condemning abortion shows his perspective on this dilemma that disregards the ethical argument that women have a right to their body. There are multiple instances in which Dr. Toner describes women as beings of lesser willpower, calling them “weak and erring unmarried females” and “weak and confiding woman” (Toner 443). Dr. Toner seeks to …show more content…
The last reason that Dr. Toner lists as a reason that women pursue illegal abortion is to avoid the social castigation of giving birth to an illegitimate child. This line of thought is most convincing to contemporary physicians, as the misogynistic views of women in society deemed “the virtuous reputation of a female in good society is almost as important as life, for the loss of it will surely cost her her position” and thus lead to “shame, dishonor, and perhaps degradation” (Toner 443). He criticizes these women “who could rashly commit a greater crime to prevent the publicity, and hide the shame of a lesser,” in particular “their shame of illicit intercourse” (Toner 443). The specific word choices highlighted through direct quotations of Dr. Toner’s article are evidence of misogynistic attitudes toward women that undercut ethical arguments supporting women’s autonomy to their …show more content…
In conjunction with the civil rights movement, women began organizing nationwide in the 1960s to advocate for women’s equality, and these came to be called “women’s liberation” groups (Reagan 227-228). The 1970s saw a “rediscovery of women’s humanity in the struggle for total equality” (Gordon 414). This second wave of feminism in the second half of the twentieth century designated accessible legal abortion as “fundamental to female freedom” (Reagan 229), a tenant that was not as essential within the first wave of feminism. Another aspect of this phase of the women’s rights movement introduced the personal experiences of women within public discourse on abortion, increasing public knowledge and understanding of the woman’s perspective on the issue, balancing out the opinions of male physicians and politicians in the past. These “speak-outs” in which women openly shared their illegal abortion stories were the first time the discussion of abortion exited the private sphere and entered public political discourse, educating the public and eliminating the stigma and ignorance surrounding abortion (Reagan 229-230). The official adoption of abortion legalization as a platform of the women’s rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s links the eventual decriminalization of abortion to transformations within societal culture also

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