Natural Law (1917)

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Although Ruth Stanley (Marguerite Courtot) is engaged to Dr. Webster (Howard Hall), she finds young athlete Jack Bowling (George Larkin) irresistible. When the doctor is called out of town, Ruth and Jack give in to temptation, and Ruth winds up pregnant. She asks Webster if he will give her an abortion, but he refuses and offers to step aside so that she can marry Jack. She balks because she doesn't really believe Jack loves her, and he is taken away by his friends to compete in the international games held in Sweden. But he soon returns to the U.S. and pleads once again for Ruth's hand. To test his love, the doctor tells him that the abortion has already been performed. This infuriates Jack, who threatens to sue. At that point, the doctor admits there has been no operation, and Ruth, realizing that Jack does love her, agrees to marry him. Premarital sex and abortion were very controversial topics in the 1910s, but this picture, based on a stage play, handled it cautiously enough to satisfy censors. The author of the original play was Howard Hall, who also portrayed the doctor.