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...
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