By James C. Mohr
'The historical past of ways abortion got here to be banned and the way girls lost--for the century among nearly 1870 and 1970--rights formerly regarded as normal and inherent over their very own our bodies is an engaging and infuriating one.
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Extra info for Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy (Galaxy Books)
The largest loophole in these early laws was the necessity to prove intent, which was simply impossible to do, given the tolerant attitude of American courts toward abortion when an irregular physician treated an unquickened woman for something he claimed he thought was not pregnancy. The subsequent fate of Maine's 1840 anti-abortion statute illustrated this dif- 42 • Abortion in Nineteenth-Century America ficulty perfectly. In 1853 that law came before the Maine Supreme Court in what appeared to be a cut-and-dried case.
The best way out of these dilemmas was to persuade state legislators to make abortion a criminal offense. Anti-abortion laws would weaken the appeal of the competition and take the pressure off the more marginal members of the regulars' own sect. For all of these reasons, regular physicians became interested in abortion policy from an early date and repeatedly dragged it into their prolonged struggle to control the practice of medicine in the United States. At times abortion policy became a focal point in that struggle, at times an incidentally affected byproduct, but the struggle itself was always there in the background.
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. 1 At their May session in 1821 members of the general assembly of Connecticut passed a revised "Crimes and Punishments" law. 2 The part of section 14 that was new was the miscarriage clause, for this was the first time that an American legislature had addressed the question of abortion in statute form.