Abortion in Ancient Times

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Procedure of abortion is known since ancient times. The word abortion is came the Latin abortus where “ab” means “amiss” and “oriri” means “likely to be born, arise”. Along with infanticide it has existed in many societies, both primitive and advanced. The earliest records of an abortive technique go back about 4,600 years to an ancient Chinese work, purportedly the work of Emperor Shen Nung which prescribes the use of mercury to induce an abortion. In ancient ages pessaries or vaginal suppositories were used as an abortifacients. They are generally more effective than oral drugs and included substances such as juice of the wild fig, a “dairy liquid” ,which caused irritation, soapwort, myrrh, myrtle, lupine, cedar-oil mixed with water, wine, or hot oil. Ancient doctors also suggested smearing on the uterine opening goose fat, mashed leek and celery, rose oils, pine resin, copper scum, boiled honey, sodium carbonate, and even mouse dung. The Egyptian Kahun Papyrus, which dates to 1850 B.C., recommend crocodile feces either for preventing conception or as an abortifacient. The Ebers Papyrus, which dates to 1550 B.C., contains several recipes that “cause a woman to stop pregnancy in the first, second, or third period.” One recipe for a vaginal suppository includes mixed the unripe fruit of Acacia, colocynth, dates, and 6/7 pints of honey and pouring the mixture onto a moistened plant fiber. Modern Arabic women still take colocynth as an abortifacient, though one woman who took 120 grains in a powder died 50 hours later. In Arabic medicine, elephant feces were frequently recommended. Aristotle suggests that the conceptus had a “soul” after 40 days from conception if a male and 90 if female. In addition there are similar differentiations in the Bible. Later, Aristotle says that the fetus develops gradually and that it is impossible to make a fine judgment. Famous doctors such as Pliny the Elder, Dioscorides, and Pseudo-Galen mention more “superstitious”...
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