Sunday, May 10, 2015

Abortion in the Civil War Era

Excerpted from: abort73.com

During the 1840's and 1850's, 13 states passed laws forbidding abortion at any stage. Three others made abortion illegal after quickening. In 1856, the Iowa Supreme Court held that pre-quickening abortion was not a crime, but in the next legislature, the prohibitions against pre-quickening abortions were restored 27-0 and 53-1.16 Despite this newfound devotion to legislative intervention, abortionists continued to make inroads. They began advertising heavily in the Penny Press, though never using the word "abortion." Women were offered instant relief from "menstrual suppression," or were told of pills that were so effective at restoring a woman's regular monthly cycle that they should never be taken by pregnant women (hint, hint).

Abortion made its biggest gains, however, on the back of another infamous and fast-growing American practice: prostitution. Increased industrialization made business travel far more common for many American men, and the anonymity that went along with such travel gave them far more opportunities to seek the "comforts" of a prostitute.

For the prostitutes themselves, higher wages for a lot less "work" was hard for many young women to pass up. By the middle of the century, there were somewhere in the vicinity of 60,000 prostitutes employed in America.

With not much in the way of birth control, and with an average of 30-40 sexual encounters a week, frequent pregnancy was a given. Since being pregnant would put them out of work, abortion became the happy alternative. New York detective John Warren noted that abortionists were "flourish[ing] and grow[ing] rich from prostitution as a source of income'.

Many doctors agreed, "Our profession is not entirely clear of complicity in the crime of feticide. Tempted by thirty pieces of silver ...individuals may be found in whom the honorable instincts and teachings of the guild are lost in the influence of unprincipled cupidity."

Then, like today, many abortionists entered the field driven by profit rather than principle, and saw an opportunity to secure "loans" and guarantee wealth. Those seeking out abortion have always valued their anonymity, and abortion providers have not always been scrupulous in their demands to not leak information. One of the 19th century's most notorious abortionists, Madame Restell, made an art of securing large "loans" from former clients, loans that were never returned. According to The New York Times, "The residence of Mme Restell is one of the best known in New York...Her wealth is entirely the proceeds of her criminal profession."


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