Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy, 1800-1900

Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy, 1800-1900

Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy, 1800-1900

Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy, 1800-1900

Excerpt

In 1800 no jurisdiction in the United States had enacted any statutes whatsoever on the subject of abortion; most forms of abortion were not illegal and those American women who wished to practice abortion did so. Yet by 1900 virtually every jurisdiction in the United States had laws upon its books that proscribed the practice sharply and declared most abortions to be criminal offenses. What follows is an attempt to understand how that dramatic and still intensely debated shift in social policy came about in the United States during the nineteenth century. When did anti-abortion laws begin to appear in criminal codes? How rapidly did early abortion policies change? What did lawmakers actually enact at the state level—for abortion policies were determined in the separate states, not by the federal government— and what were those lawmakers responding to? Most importantly, what groups fought to make abortion a criminal offense in the United States and why did they do it?

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