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Research paper topic: Abortion - 2032 words
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Abortion Abortion in today's society has become very political. You are either pro-choice or pro-life, and there doesn't seem to be a happy medium. As we look at abortion and research its history, should it remain legal in the United States, or should it be outlawed to reduce the ever growing rate of abortion. A choice should continue to exist but the emphasis needs to be placed on education of the parties involved. James C.
Mohr takes a good look at abortion in his book Abortion in America. He takes us back in history to the 1800s so we can understand how the practice and legalization of abortion has changed over the year. In the absence of any legislation whatsoever on the subject of abortion in the U.S. in 1800, the legal status of the practice was governed by the traditional British common law as interpreted by the local courts of new American states. For centuries prior to 1800 the key to the common law's attitude towards abortion had been a phenomenon associated with normal gestation as quickening.
Quickening was the first perception of fetal movement by the pregnant woman herself. Quickening generally occurred during the mid-point of gestation, late in the fourth or early in the fifth month, though it would and still does vary a good deal from one woman to another (pg.3). The common law did not formally recognize the existence of a fetus in criminal cases until it had quickened. After quickening, the expulsion and destruction of the fetus without due case was considered a crime, because the fetus itself had manifested some semi-balance of a separate existence: the ability to move (pg3). The even more controversial question: Is the fetus alive? Has been at the forefront of the debate. Medically, the procedure of removing a blockage was the same as those for inducing an early abortion. Not until the obstruction moved would either a physician or a woman regardless of their suspicions be completely certain that it was a "natural" blockage-a pregnancy-rather than a potentially dangerous situation.
Morally, the question of whether or not the fetus was "alive" had been the subject of philosophical and religious debate among honest people for 5,000 years. Single pregnant woman used abortion as a way to avoid shame. The practice of aborting unwanted pregnancies was, if not common, almost certainly not rare in the United States. A knowledge of various drugs, potions and techniques was available from home medical guides, from health books for woman, for mid-wives and irregular practitioners, and trained physicians. Substantial evidence suggest that many American women sought abortions, tried the standard techniques of the day, and no doubt succeeded some proportions of the time in terminating unwanted pregnancies. Moreover, this practice was neither morally nor legally wrong in the vast majority of Americans, provided it was accomplished before quickening.
The important early court cases all involved single woman trying to terminate illegitimate pregnancies. As late as 1834 it was axiomatic to a medical student at the University of Maryland, who wrote his dissertation on spontaneous abortion, that woman who feigned dysmenorrhea in order to obtain abortions from physicians were woman who had been involved in illicit intercourse. Cases reported in the medical journals prior to 1840 concern the same percentages (16,17). Samuel Jennings quoted Dr. Denman, one of the leading obstetrical writers of the day to reassure his readers, "In abortions, dreadful and alarming as they are sometimes it is great comfort to know that they are almost universally void of danger either from hemorrhage, or any other account." Again, the context was spontaneous by the then induced abortion, but in a book with such explicit suggestions for relieving the common cold, woman could easily conclude that the health risks involved in bringing on an abortion were relatively low, or at least not much worse than childbirth itself in 1808, when Jennings wrote in his book (18). Mohr continues with the first dealings with the legal statues on abortion in the United States.
The earliest laws that dealt specifically with the legal status of abortion in the U.S. were inserted into Americans criminal code books between 1821 and 1841. Ten states and one federal territory during that period enacted legislation that for the first time made certain kinds of abortions explicit statute offenses rather than leaving the common law to deal with them. The legislation 13, 14 and 15 read. Every person who shall, willfully and maliciously, administer to, or cause to be administered to, or taken by, any person or persons, any deadly poisons, or other noxious and destructive substance, within an intention him/her/them, thereby to murder, or thereby to cause or procure the miscarriage of any woman, then being quick with child, and shall be thereof duly convicted, shall suffer imprisonment, in the newgate prison, during his natural life, or for such other terms as the court having cognizance of the offense shall determine (21).
Consequently, it is not surprising that the period was not one of vigorous anti-abortion activity in state legislation. One of the exceptions was Ohio. In 1834 legislators there made attempted abortion a misdemeanor without specifying any stage of gestation, and they made the death of either the woman or the fetus after quickening a felony (39,40), Alabama enacted a major code revision during the 1840/1841 session of its legislature that made the abortion of "any pregnant woman" a statuate crime for the first time in that state, but pregnant meant quickened (40). A code revision in Maine in 1984 made attempted abortion of any woman "pregnant with child" an offense, whether such child be quick or not." Regardless of what method was used (41). The first wave of abortion legislation in American history emerged from the struggles of both legislatures and physicians to control medical practice rather than from public pressures to deal with abortion per se.
Every one of the laws passed between 1821 and 1841 punished only the "person" who administered the abortifacients or performed the operation; none punished the woman herself in any way. The laws were aimed, in other words, at regulating the activities of apothecaries and physicians, not at dissuading woman from seeking abortions (43). The major increase in abortion in the U.S. start in the early 1840's three key changes began to take place in the patterns of abortion in the United States. These changes profoundly effected the evolution of abortion policy for the next 40 years.
First, abortion came out into the public view; by the mid-1840's the fact that Americans practiced abortion was an obvious social reality, constantly visible for the population as a whole. The second overwhelming incident of abortion, according to the commentary observers began to rise in the early 1840's and remained at high levels through the 1870's. Abortion was no longer marginal practice whose incident probably approximated that of illegitimacy, but rather a wide spread social phenomenon during that period (46). Third, the types of woman having recourse to abortion seem to change; the dramatic surge of abortion in the U.S. after 1840 was attributed not to the increase in illegitimacy or a decline in marital fidelity, but rather to the increase use of abortion by white, married, Protestants, native born woman of the mid and upper class who either wished to delay their child bearing or already had all the children they wanted (46). The increased public visibility of abortion as stated by Mohr may be attributed largely to a process common enough in American history: commercializations. Several factors were involved in the commercialization of abortion, but the continued compensation for clients among members of the medical profession stood out because that compensation was so intense many marginal practitioners began in the early 1840's to try and attract patients by advertising in popular press their willingness to treat the private ailments of woman in terms that everybody recognized as significantly their willing to provide abortion services (47).
During the 1840's Americans also learned for the first time not only that many practitioners would provide abortion services, but that some practitioners had made the abortion business their chief livelihood indeed, abortion became one of the first specialties in American medical history. The popular press began to make abortion more visible to the American people during the 1840's not only in its advertisements, but also in its coverage of a number of sensational trials alleged to involve botched abortions and professional abortionists (47). One indication that abortion rates probably jumped in the United States during the 1940's and remained high for some 30 years thereafter was the increased visibility of the practice. By the 1950's, then, commercialization had brought abortion into the public view in the United States, and the visibility it gained would effect the evolution of abortion policy in American State Legislatures. At the same time, a second key change was taking place: American woman began to practice abortion more frequently after 1840 then they had earlier in the century (50).
During the week of January 4, 1845, Boston Daily Times advertised Madame Restell's Female Pills; Madame Drunette's lunar pills which were sold as "a blessing to mothers . . . and although very mild and prompt in their operations, pregnant females should not use them, as they may invariably produce a miscarriage": A second piece of evidence for high abortion rates for the period of was existent during that time of flourishing business and abortifacients medicine (53). The East River Medical Association of New York obtained an affidavit form the Commissioner of Internal Revenue in 1871 declaring that a single manufacturer had produced so many packages of abortifacient pills "during the last twelve months" that 30,841 federal revenue stamps had been required of him(59).
Beginning in 1840 several Southern physicians drew attention to the fact that slave women used cotton root as a abortifacient, and they considered it both mild and effective. Although regular physicians never prescribed cotton root for any purpose in normal practice, druggists around the country were soon beginning to stock it. By the late 1850's, according to the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, cotton root had "become a very considerable article of sale" in New England pharmacies. In 1871 " a druggist in extensive trade " informed Van de Warker "that the sales of extract of cotton-wood had quadrupled in the last five years" (59). Judging by advertisements in the German-language press in New York after the Civil War.
Abortion was apparently on a commercialized and relatively open basis in the German community by then. Female specialists, quite candidly announced their willingness to provide for German women the services then touted so openly in the English-language press. Many practitioners offered abortifacient preparations for sale and several made less than subtle allusions to their willingness to operate. A Dr. Harrison, for example, invited German women to his office with the promise that" all menstrual obstructions, from whatever cause they might originate, will be removed in a few hours without risk or pain"(91). Mohr advises us who was performing the abortions. Only the affluent, generally speaking.
Could offer temptations that were worth the risk to a regular of being found out by his colleagues. The two groups of regulars most vulnerable to proffered bonuses for abortions were young men struggling to break into the viciously competitive laissez faire medical market of the 1840s and the 1850s and older practitioners losing their skills and their reputations during the 1860s and 1870s, when modern medicine took long strides forward and physicians unfamiliar with the new breakthroughs began to fall behind (95). The founding of the American Medical Association in 1847 may be taken as the beginning of this long-term effort, the goals of which were not fully realized until the twentieth century. Mohr leads us to believe that the physicians were launching a crusade against abortion for there own finical benefit. While the founding of the AMA did not instantly alter the situation, it did provide an organizational framework within which a concerted campaign for a particular policy might be coordinated on a larger scale than ever before.
Ten years after its creation a young Boston physician decided to use that framework to launch an attack upon America's ambiguous and permissive policies toward abortion (147-148). The young physician was Horatio Robinson Storer, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology. Storer, an activist who "kept things stirred up wherever he was, "sensed that his elders were growing restive ...
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