lynn82md: (history)
[personal profile] lynn82md posting in [community profile] prochoice_maryland
I've been reading "Legends, Lies, and Cherished Myths of American History" by Richard Shenkman for the last couple days. One thing they talk about is some history regarding abortion before Roe vs. Wade. Some facts you might know, others you may not (I certainly didn't know some of these facts).

*Before Roe vs.Wade, the assumption that abortion had always been illegal in the US is wrong.
-There weren't any laws against abortion until the 1820s. Even many years after that, most states permitted abortion in the first four months of pregnancy.
-Abortion began to be generally outlawed only in the mid 19th century.
-Women continued to have abortions because they provided a guaranteed method of birth control.
-Abortions were generally outlawed during the mid to late 19th century and early 20th century, however Americans seem not to have been terribly bothered by the widespread resort to the practice.
-Between 1849 to 1858 in Massachusetts, of thirty-two accused "abortionists", not one was convicted. The juries composed solely of men freed every one of the suspects.
-Women seemed less inclined than men to condemn abortion.
-A doctor's obversation from 1896: "Many otherwise good and exemplary women, who would rather part with their right hands or let their tongues cleave to the roof of the mouth than commit a crime, seem to believe that prior to quickening it is no more harm to cause the evacuation of the contents of their wombs than it is that of their bladders or their bowels."

*The clergy had always been behind the movement to outlaw abortion is not true.
-The medical professional were the ones that first pushed for the change.
-Doctors took the effort to outlaw abortion after they discovered with the help of the microscope that "babies" developed when an egg was fertilized by the sperm. Before the discovery, only the sperm had been detected...not the egg.
-Carl Degler, historian: "Thus, what is spoken of today as the moment of conception, the time when egg and sperm unite, has no specific meaning or even conceptulalizaton for people at the opening of the 19th century. About all that physicians and lay people alike knew was that at some point after sexual intercourse the male sperm (or egg) began to develop into a recognizably potential human being."
-As a result, everyone had believed that life began at about four months when the mother felt the baby move in her somtach (a moment known as quickening).
-Doctors railed against abortion.
-An anti-abortion doctor: "Even among the married, there are few wives who do not know of some means to destroy the foetus before it comes to full term, and who have not in some manner and at some time, applied one or more of these means in their own cases."

*Abortions were uncommon until recently is a common error.
-While hard numbers are difficult to come by...one researcher has estimated that in the second half of the 19th century, there was 1 abortion for every half dozon or so births.
-In the 1920s, it's reported that about one in four pregnancies ended in an abortion.

Citation
Deglar, At Odds, ch.10

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