Scarlet Letters: Getting the History of Abortion and Contraception Right
Abortion was not just legal—it was a safe, condoned, and practiced procedure in colonial America and common enough to appear in the legal and medical records of the period. Official abortion laws did not appear on the books in the United States until 1821, and abortion before quickening did not become illegal until the 1860s. If a woman living in New England in the 17th or 18th centuries wanted an abortion, no legal, social, or religious force would have stopped her.
Reminder that records of contraception and abortion exist all the way back to 1550 BCE in ancient Egypt!
This was a really fascinating read. Until the early 19th century, abortion was legal until “quickening,” or when the pregnant person first felt the baby kick - anywhere from 14 to 26 weeks into the pregnancy. Society only began to condemn it when people decided white, middle- to upperclass women weren’t having enough children soon enough in their lives, and when male doctors started taking over traditionally female health care fields, like midwifery.
Yep, shockingly enough, it’s never, ever been about the life of the fetus - only about misogyny, racism, and classism (ableism, too, though the article doesn’t discuss it).