The History of Abortion
Abortion is the ending of a pregnancy before birth. An abortion results in the death of the embryo or fetus and may be either spontaneous or induced. For years, abortion has been an extremely controversial subject. The history of abortion reaches back not just decades, but centuries, and even milleniums. Today, policies regarding legal abortion in the U.S. is being debated everywhere. Many myths and misconceptions confuse this issue. A better understanding of the history of abortion in America can help provide a context for an improved policy in the future.
Abortion has been widely known, practiced, and debated since ancient times. The ancient Hebrews had laws against abortion, but they permitted it in cases where the mother’s life was at risk. Under Roman rule, abortion was permitted, as well as infanticide. The shriveled remains of exposed babies could be found all across the countryside of the Roman Empire. The early Christian church generally opposed abortion. For hundreds of years, however, a debate raged in the church on whether abortion might be justifiable before animation. Christian theologians defined animation as the point at which a fetus received a soul. According to church teachings, animation occurred between forty to eighty days after conception. From about the 1300s to the 1800s, abortion before animation became a generally accepted practice in Europe, if the pregnancy endangered the life of the mother. If an abortion was performed before animation for a less serious reason, many theologians considered it wrong but not homicide.
Abortion has been performed for thousands of years, and in every society that has been studied. It was legal in the U.S. until the mid 19th century. In 1900, abortion was prohibited by law throughout the U.S. The only way a woman was able to have an abortion was if two or more physicians agreed that the procedure was necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman. In the late 1960s, state legislatures recognized changes in public opinion and began to reconsider the abortion legislation. In 1973, the U.S Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, ruled abortion as a sight under the United States Constitution.
The case of Roe v. Wade was an important turning point in the public health policy. Before 1973, the state of Texas prohibited legal abortions unless it is to save a woman’s life. Many states in the U.S. had similar laws to Texas. These laws had caused the number of illegal abortions increase. These illegal abortions were unsafe, and could be fatal to most women, and put their lives at risk. Jane Roe was a twenty-one year old woman that was pregnant, who represented all of the women who wanted abortions but could not get one. Henry Wade was a Texas attorney General who had defended the state’s law. The Supreme Court ruled for Roe and stated that America’s right to privacy included: the right for a woman to choose whether or...