Abortion is a spontaneous expulsion of a human fetus during the first twelve weeks of gestation (Collegiate). Abortion has always been a controversial issue. The purpose of this paper is not to persuade anyone neither, pro or con, on abortion but to simply present the history of abortion in the United States. History of Abortion
Abortion has been practiced since the time of early colonies settling in America (History of Abortion). Abortion was once legal before the Constitution made it a law. During the time, abortion was freely advertised and routinely performed (NAF). The people residing during this time period were strongly opposed to abortion pending well into the nineteenth century. They strongly believed that if you pursued an abortion after quickening (feeling life) that it was a strong transgression. Many considered that the child in the womb has legal rights even if the mother might perish. Countless religions have special beliefs on abortion. Commonly in Greece and Rome, Assyrians punished those who participated in abortion. Whereas, the Jewish community held the belief that the fetus in a woman is not a person. In 1312, the Catholic Church Council of Vienne stated that having an abortion after the fetus was formed, which the church felt happened during the first trimester, was homicide. This view changed in the seventeenth century when it was felt that sperm cells examined under a microscope showed a fully formed human being (History of Abortion).
By the early 1800's, it was felt that fertilization was the beginning of the human life rather than when the mother experiences quickening. In 1869, the British Parliament passed "Offense Against the Persons Act" withdrawing the felony punishment back to fertilization. This is the milestone that began the law against abortion in countless states. By 1860, eighty-five percent of the population that resided in the states had a new law prohibiting abortion. When abortionists were convicted they were sent to jail for months at a time. The mothers were never drawn into imploring the abortions. Conviction was not common at the time because they did not have the proper tools and technology to diagnose early pregnancy. As a result, there was no evidence for the abortionist to be convicted medically or lawfully. At this time, the most knowledgeable way to know that the mother was pregnant was to hear the fetus's heartbeat. At that time, the heartbeat could not be defected until the second trimester. Before the second trimester, the abortionist could claim the mother had a medical problem causing her mene7strual period to be late; he merely brought on her period. Abortionists were rarely prosecuted unless the patient was injured or died. The major reason abortionists were not prosecuted for murder was because you cannot convict a person of murder unless a body can be produced. Since the fetal tissue could not be examined it was impossible to prove the abortionist's actions had ended the pregnancy or that she had even been pregnant (History of Abortion).
States began passing laws making abortion illegal in the mid-to-late 1800's. Motivation for these laws came not so much from religious beliefs but was due more to concern over America's birthrate moving from one of the highest in the world to the lowest. This drop in birth rates played a part in America's dramatic change in economic and social conversion in to an "urban-industrial society" (History of Abortion). Another motivator in making abortion illegal also concerned birthrates, specifically among newly arriving immigrants (NAF). Throughout history, some women chose to end unwanted pregnancy by abortion. Many women turned to "back-alley" abortion when abortion was illegal or they did not have the funds for a legal abortion. "Back-Alley" abortion consisted of measures such as women being blindfolded by strangers and taken by car to an abortionist in isolated areas. Sadly,...