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