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Friday, November 2, 2012

Republican Leadership: Strong, Clear-eyed, Competant

James Mohr (1993), Doctors and the Law: Medical Jurisprudence in Nineteenth-Century America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 0801853982):

p. 71ff: [Doctors'] approach appeared to be straightforward: enlightened science should triumph over both ancient legal precedents and entrenched folk perceptions…. Champions of improved medical jurisprudence [in America] battled… the widespread and legally-accepted popular belief that conception could not take place without "a certain degree of enjoyment" on the part of the woman, and the conditions for female pleasure would be unlikely to exist unless the woman had acquiesced. Physicians could finally demonstrate by the second quarter of the nineteenth century tha pregnancy was not a matter of volition. Women had conceived while under the effect of narcotics and anesthetics; they could also have a pregnancy forced upon them by a rapist. All of the leading authorities in the field of [American] medical jurisprudence agreed on this point by mid-[nineteenth] century. Yet the old notion did not die easily…. By maintaining a constant and nearly unanimous drumfire of testimony in rape cases to the effect that pregnancy could follow a rape, American physicians were self-consciously crusading in behalf o science and rationalism against what they considered barbaric anachronisms inappropriate to an enlightened republic. Only in the late nineteenth-century, however, were they able to all but eliminate that long-standing British excuse for acquittal…

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