The Child Killer
The somewhat brutal but deeply sincere article I wrote here nine days ago, “The Right to Abortion”, raised a polemic that has not yet died down.
An evening paper, very evening, even wanted to call it a vindication what was only meant as a plea for a defense; and then in good fellowship to call the attention of the courts to my humble prose.
But this does not bother me much since I do not believe that there is a State Morality. If one exists, it is like that savage mist where we struggle, under the official lights in the streets of London during foggy weather. The street lamps are too tall and too dim; you know that they exist and that they shine, but no one can see the light. And everyone holds out his lantern or torch to see where he is going so as not to twist an ankle, step in the mud, trip or fall in the gutter.
Thus the conscience of every human being guides them and points out the obstacles, cesspools and perils. Yet, some people still fall down and get muddy—it is only because the light was weak, flickering, in need of wax or resin or because the wind suddenly blew it out, creating shadows and opening the way for mistakes…
But do you see the Queen’s government forbid private lights on the pretext that it is an insult to the official street lamps?
They would end up nabbing anyone whose little light or candle bothered their neighbor, who threw some oil on their top hats, some tallow on their clothes or lit up those nasty shows. If there were a moral network of roads like there is a physical network, nothing would be better. Children and women walk around and we have to protect their innocence, vulnerability and decency.
As for snuffing out their consciences to establish the monopoly of a governmental conscience—one, indivisible and infallible—not that! Humanity has rights that take precedence over all the artificial legislations of the world. And when a question cuts to the quick, stirs up and inflames the people, go on and defend everyone’s right to say what they think, to scream out their opinions or anger, to march onward, in short, following their nature, character and instinct!
They tried this autocracy in religion and politics. Whoever blasphemed God or criticized the King had their tongue pierced, their throats cut—the stake and the butcher’s block were used as a pedestal for their apotheosis and the platform of their next statue…The blood of martyrs and the tears of the oppressed have fertilized the most unproductive soil—and freedom sprang forth one day, a giant flower flashing purple!
We almost have religious independence; we almost have political independence; but the centuries have marched on and the demands of man have grown just like his intelligence and his pride. Now he cries out for the right to life and all the old struggles, the old crusades start up again, rise from the grave against this demand as they will start and rise up against all the new demands that threaten the established order of things.
“You can choose your representative and you can choose your God,” say the judiciary, army, family and property. “What more do you want?”
“I want to eat,” the man says.
It is because he wants to eat that he does not have any more children and that deep in the heart of Batignolles they just arrested the Child Killer. A bread peddler and abortionist who “operated” in the back of bar! More than two thousand women passed between her hands. Ah, those people who were choked up the other day over the scandal in Toulon and who discussed the pros and cons of the question of “honor” concerning abortion, will they deign to lower their eyes on the mass grave of human seed and discuss the question of “poverty”?
These women did not have 800 F to give to the sterilizer, like Madame de Jonquières had, the poor creatures who come pale out of the goring, leaning against the wall and then leaving a trail of red spots behind them like a wounded deer who had her teats eaten by the dogs but can still drag herself away… They did not have a louis, not ten sous; they paid in kind bringing a wool shawl, a new apron, their Sunday dress, a pound of sugar or a bar of soap—like for the wet nurse!
They were servants and maids of the leisure class who pitilessly threw them out into the street, and more than anything—oh, more than anything—they were workers. Not the worker seduced by rich boys who beguile our mothers, but married workers, legitimate wives who got married in the church and city hall and wear a wedding ring on their finger—they sold it sometimes to go there—and forced into crime, you understand, forced by too much despair, by their hopeless misfortune!
A mother of seven children came to the Child Killer to avoid the eighth. She cried and said, “My God, but the others still don’t have enough to eat!”
So let the poor practice abstinence! Yes, there are people who say this, who dare to utter this blasphemy. And the strange thing, the bizarre absurdity is that they are the very ones who preach repopulation!
But it is the only joy for the poor! The cold pushes them into each other’s arms and when their lips meet, for a little while they forget their troubles, their fatigue and tomorrow’s cares—these beggars are happy like the rich!
The unacceptable vice, you see, is only that the poor have a lot of children and society cannot feed them. What will the President/Judge say—for, they are going to bring these unfortunate women to court!—when one of them tells him what the mother of seven children said: “I killed that one so I could feed the others!”
He cannot tell them to be abstinent; another judge had united this woman to her husband so that they might procreate as much as possible. The law encourages and blesses mating and reproduction. But it is only a matchmaker, not a nanny. Would you like an example? I am sorry for always telling you sad stories, but, alas, life is like that…
Have you read about the suicide of Robin, the accountant, the day before yesterday? He was not rich and had given his half dozen children to the country. The parents and the whole brood were piled into a small room at 3 Rue de Birague—no more work, no more resources, nothing left to sell or pawn—the same, sad story as always!
Welfare services, notified by the landlady, a good woman, had allocated a meager sum when the last child was born in August and then went on to other projects without thinking any more about this poor family than about a litter of starving cats.
What did the father do? Oh, something simple and heroic. He threw himself in the river from the top of the Pont des Arts and drowned to attract the attention and pity of the public for his family. A letter left on a bench explained this.
He succeeded. The welfare services have finally become concerned and are probably going to take the four youngest children. That leaves two—and the sick mother, half-crazy with despair. We can hope that the poor man’s sacrifice will bring them some condolence.
But again what is this social state that forces a man to kill himself to ensure a life for his children?
Yes, justice has subpoenaed the “clients” of the Child Killer. Two hundred women accused! To punish this clandestine scandal, the law is going to make it the most appalling public scandal that has maybe ever been seen. For, not all who resorted to the matron did so out of poverty. Some were sternly raised middle class girls or married women who wanted to hide their mistake. They are going to snatch them away from their parents or husbands and drag them to the infamous bench to tell everyone what they had risked their lives to hide—to cut off their future, wrap them in shame and throw them into the Morgue or onto the streets!
And you will tell me that it is morality! That the bud left to nothingness deserves tearing these mothers away from their children’s cradle whom a steady income or a legitimate family allowed them to have—and this is their absolution!
My word, they would say that women have abortions for fun, just to pester the police and thumb their noses at the judges! But their crime (if it is a crime) was committed in tears, despair and shame. They would have preferred not to commit it, come on!
They are the victims, not the culprits; victims of a social organization that in its desire for repopulation crowns the virgin girls and excommunicates the young mothers; it abolishes the “hatches” and punishes infanticide; it does not recognize but brings disgrace on illegitimate children and forbids abortion; it says to the poor “increase and multiply” and lets their many descendants die of hunger!
It is society that inflicts misery on the poor and then denies them the right to refuse one too many! It is society that instills the fanaticism of honor in women and strikes them down if they are forced not to be dishonored! It is society, the ogress, that feeds on the flesh of young children murdered by its stupid laws and hateful prejudices. It is society that is the Child Killer!
 Gil Blas, November 14, 1890, signed Jacqueline.
 In the 17th arrondisement of Paris.
 A bridge that crosses the Seine from the 1st to 6th arrondisement in Paris.
 A small door in the exterior wall of a hospital that allowed women to leave children anonymously.