Halliday Sutherland

"A born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better." G.K. Chesterton.

Dr A. Louise McIlroy


On July 7th, 1921, Dr. A. Louise McIlroy read a paper entitled: “Some Factors in the Control of the Birth-rate.” In the discussion that followed, she made the remark that was quoted by Dr Sutherland in “Birth Control: A Statement of Christian Doctrine Against the Neo-Malthusians”. The shorthand writer’s record read as follows:

Medical-Legal Society

11, Chandos Street, W. July 7th 1921

After the Annual Meeting Dr A. Louise McIlroy read a paper on “Some Factors in the Control of the Birth-rate” followed by one by Dr. Armand Routh on the same subject.

[Earl Russell, Dr H.G. Sutherland, Dr Bernard O’Connor, Dr Haden Guest, Mr G.M. [sic] Shaw and Lord Justice Atkins spoke in the discussion following the paper. Professor McIlroy then remarked.]

“There was too short a time for reading my paper. If I had read my original paper you would not have got home by midnight. I had to cut it down six times. The whole question must be considered by the medical profession because we have absolutely no guide in the matter. I myself have had no guide. I wanted several points of guidance and everybody who has discussed the question has felt that need, and that it must be taken up by the medical profession and put on the proper basis. Dr Routh mentioned the attitude of the College of Physicians. I have arrived at the conclusion that in cases of criminal abortion you should get rid of the patient as soon as you can, and that is practically the advice that is given by the profession. You are very lucky if you have nothing to do with a case but, if you do shift her on to another member of the profession. I do not agree with the suggestion that the object is to get fodder for cannon. I think the whole welfare of the nation, of the Empire depends on the sanity of the White race. I meant that contraceptives should only be used on the advice of the medical profess ion. I did not take up the economic question. But, on the question of taxation and the allowance to mothers, there is no allowance. The woman is penalised when she marries. She has to add her income to her husbands. If we could get that removed from the income tax it would facilitate woman’s earnings. It is the better conducted classes who make the greatest use of contraceptive methods. They want to give one boy a public school education, and if there are 4 or 5 boys they could only give them an elementary education. But you can not ensure a boy’s of girl’s education, and the Government give a rebate. That system might be extended to other classes of the community. Then there is the question of motherhood endowment, but we do not want to burden the State with any more taxation. But there are schemes for insurance in connection with motherhood, and they should be enlarged, so that the mother might be able to give up her work during the last two months of pregnancy, and there should be a system of looking after the early lactation of children. As to contraceptives being harmful. I did not go into that question. The practice would ruin the you [sic] men and women of any nation. I have had no experience of any harmful result from the use of quinine. The most harmful method of which I have had experience is the use of the pessary. It does not remain in place. It can pass back natural discharges. In sexual intercourse there is no proof that the spermatorrhoea has some psychological benefit on the woman, and 1 [sic] if you put a cap over the walls of the vagina may be threatened. We are not decided whether it is so or not. In my opinion it is the cervix which is absorbed and flooded, not the vagina. The Church is out of date. The Church ought not only to show the way to heaven, but to show that we can live a proper and moral and clean life. One has only to live in Ireland to see the happiness of the peasants there in their large  families, and they have very little to live on.

“In Eastern Europe the people are very prolific and their morality is high, especially in Bulgaria and Servia where 3 acres of ground is given to each peasant. There is no question of contraceptives being used in those countries, and the peasants are the happiest I have ever lived amongst. There are large families, and every member is an athlete I have known a case of a boy of 21 marrying a woman of 40. No objection was made, because she was a good worker and could help till the land. This was an example of the peasantry living under good conditions with large families, making for the good of the State. Last year I spent some time in Constantinople and there was an enormous influx of the better class Russians.

“I came into contract with them from the direct medical point of view. There was a great prevalence of Gonorrhoea among the women. The Russian doctors advised contraceptive methods. There were expensive and could not be obtained. Because the poor things had no money abortion was carried out everywhere by the Russians. There were an enormous number of Russian peasants who were on the same lines as the Servian and Bulgarian peasants and were most prolific. The Russian upper classes are decadent. They were utterly hopeless, they did not want children, they thought of their little pet dogs very much more than of children, their little pet dogs very much more than of children, and some of them saved their little pet dogs and let the children go. The sexual instinct is given to everyone possibly for the propagation of our species and if you interfere with it you must give some outlet to our reproductive knowledge in other directions. If you are going to do great work in the world your sexual side must be in abeyance. I thoroughly agree that there should be separate bedrooms. It is difficult to be moral under some conditions which at present exist. In India, the people are very prolific and they are perfectly moral, for the reason that the women are not stimulated as is the case in some countries. They are dressed properly and kept away from the public eye. You cannot say anything bad enough about the Turk – he is a barbarian, but he one of the most moral men, and the women are much purer than any in London. I think that modesty should not be a question of religion but of race preservation. There are some who say the medical profession gave no right to interfere with family life. Why should we have these men and women going about trying to induce people to use contraceptive methods? I have not the least objection to the sale of these contraceptives, but they ought to be sold openly, by chemists of repute, not confined to the rubber goods trade and looked upon as only to be used for sexual purposes. If they are useful they ought to be procurable if they are harmful they ought to be swept away.”

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This entry was posted on 1 September 2018 by in London, Stopes v Sutherland.

Stopes v Sutherland libel trial 1922-24

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