History and Abortion

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Mon Aug 14 17:57:19 MDT 1995


At 5:56 PM 8/14/95, Carrol Cox wrote:

>    3. It was a part of the general campaign by M.D.s to dominate health care.
>I'd be interested in seeing more analysis, including also more empirical
>material from 19th c. U.S. history.

For this, and other historical background, see Kristin Luker's Abortion &
the Politics Of Motherhood (California, 1984). This is from pp. 19-21:

"At the opening of the nineteenth century, no statute laws governed
abortion in America. What minimal legal regulation existed was inherited
from English common law tradition that abortion undertaken before
quickening was at worst a misdemeanor.... Consequently, in
nineteenth-century America, as in medieval Europe, first trimester
abortions, and a goodly number of second trimester abortions as well, face
little regulation.
   In contrast, by 1900 every state in the union had passed a law
forbidding the use of drugs or instrument to procure abortion at any stage
of pregnancy, 'unless the same be necessary to save the woman's life.....'
   Many cultural themes and social struggles lie behind the transition....
The most visible interest group agitating for more restrictive abortion
laws was composed of elite or 'regular' physicians, who actively petitioned
state legislatures to pass anti-abortion laws and undertook through popular
writings to change public opinion on abortion. The efforts of these
physicians were probably the single most important influence in bringing
about nineteenth-century anti-abortion laws."

Doug

--

Doug Henwood
[dhenwood at panix.com]
Left Business Observer
250 W 85 St
New York NY 10024-3217
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