In 1871, Augustus St. Clair of the New York Times was given an assignment. He was to go undercover to investigate medical malpractice in the illegal underground abortion business.
St. Clair and a lady friend posed as a couple seeking an abortion. What St. Clair uncovered resulted in an editorial series entitled, “The Evil of the Age”.
In his investigative coverage, St. Clair wrote:
Thousands of human beings are thus murdered before they have seen the light of this world, and thousands upon thousands more of adults are irremediably ruined in constitution, health and happiness. So secretly are these crimes committed and so craftily do the perpetrators inveigh their victims, that it is next to impossible to obtain evidence and witnesses.
He further stated that, if even a portion of the hideous facts could be revealed, the reader would shrink from the appalling picture.
This story is very similar to what we are seeing today—in some ways—as the gruesome and appalling nature of the abortion business is continually brought to light by the work of undercover researchers like David Daleiden of Center for Medical Progress and well as in the testimonies, reports and instances of unsafe and unsanitary conditions of the abortion facilities.
St. Clair goes on to say, “There is a systematic business in wholesale murder conducted by men and women in this City that is seldom detected, rarely interfered with, and scarcely ever punished by law.”
This fact also seems to be similar to what we are seeing today regarding the focus on Daleiden and his organization, rather than confronting the evil perpetuated by Planned Parenthood.
Consider a letter to the New York Times editor in response to St. Clair’s first article in his series:
Public opinion must be reversed. A voice of warning has now and then raised in the pulpit, the Press at long intervals gives a short article, but the resistance has been very irregular, and the evil has rather grown than diminished. A complete revolution of society is demanded. Poor women’s rights are not yet fully understood. We call upon all women—strong-minded and weak-minded—of all classes of society to arise and combat “woman’s wrongs” and establish her in the right way.
Strikingly, as the letter continues, it becomes clear that, even in the late 1800s, it was understood that—rather than representing the advancement of women’s rights—abortion represented the accommodation and liberalization of irresponsible men.
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Abortion, the writer argued, freed a man who wanted to have “no strings attached” sexual encounters from the worry of consequences and responsibilities. The abortion industry as a whole has, wherever and whenever it has existed, trained men to objectify women as a subjects of a one-night stand.
St. Clair’s series also delved into the financial machinery fueling abortion clinics, noting the clinics were anything but the “back alley” operations we have heard so much about from the abortion lobby. Even in 1871, these facilities were dressed in elegant decoration, expensive mahogany furniture and fine tapestry carpets.
While the legalization of abortion—and the 145 years in between—has done anything but raise the standard of care inside these clinics, St. Clair captured the familiar helplessness of the clients, masked with their secret shame.
So, what has changed—substantively, that is—in the 145 years between St. Clair’s New York Times series and today? One glaring answer is the media itself.
Even as Kermit Gosnell’s abortion enterprise was exposed as the “House of Horrors” it was for decades in West Philadelphia back in 2011, leading to a murder trial and conviction in 2013, there has been precious little coverage by the mainstream media.
Neither is Gosnell’s case an outlier, as the media turns a blind eye to the very real threat abortion clinics pose to the women who enter them—to say nothing of the inherently lethal threat posed to preborn children.
The present-day media’s unwillingness to cast a negative light on the abortion industry in spite of all evidence has been particularly flagrant in Daleiden’s case. Daleiden and the CMP’s investigation brought to light the truth of illegal and unethical practices of the abortion business, and yet it is the investigators themselves who are made out to be villainous monsters.
It bears asking whether the media castigating Daleiden are subtly resentful of a true muckraker when they see him.
St. Clair stood firm in his conviction in the face of adversity. Abortion was and still is a big business, and St. Clair had to turn down bribes and ignore death threats to get the story out. But his willingness to take risks to his career, reputation and life for his commitment to the sanctity of life opened the eyes of sleepy America to the exploitation of women and horrors of abortion.
It’s been 145 years, but the call to stand firm remains.