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The Grizzly Gazette

The Grizzly Gazette

The Grizzly Gazette

Abortion has Always had a Presence in America

As of 2023, many states across the US are passing laws that restrict abortions, which has been the trickle effect of the Supreme Court’s decision in 2022 to overturn Roe vs. Wade. 

With these laws and restrictions becoming more common across state lines, it is easy to forget and overlook how abortion and the right to terminate a pregnancy are crucial.

In 1821, Connecticut became the first state to make abortion illegal, but it wasn’t until a century later in 1910 that abortions were banned in every state.

While abortion has always been a moral and social taboo, during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Common Law stated that criminalization of abortion only occurred if it happened before the “quickening”, which is a dated term for any fetal movement after four months of pregnancy. 

Before the mid-nineteenth century, unwanted pregnancies were considered a normal part of life for women. Reproductive care was for the most part unregulated and was done by high-skilled midwives, nurses, and other unlicensed women health care practitioners. These individuals provided reproductive treatment that was fairly common across a variety of classes. 

American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin published a manual book titled “Franklin’s The Instructor”, released in 1748, which became a bestseller and quickly became a staple amongst American households.

The book explained basic methods, such as mathematics and letter writing, but also included various formulas and prescriptions to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Franklin’s book serves as an example of how widespread these practices were in America and it elaborates on the risks associated with uncontrolled or substandard medical treatment during abortions. 

Around the world, natural cures and plant-based mixtures have long been popular, with the earliest known remedy for an unwanted pregnancy being found in Ancient Greece in the seventh century. These infrequently documented abortion methods have primarily been passed down orally through female cultures that share reproductive technologies from generation to generation. 

While the practice had been common across different classes and backgrounds, for the most part, these women tended to be middle or upper-class White women.

Abortion bans have their deep roots in White supremacy in America that largely target and aim to control women of color and their reproductive rights.

Forced sterilizations have been abundant amongst women of color and immigrants across the nineteenth and well into the mid-twentieth century, allowed under the racist science of eugenics that sought to “cleanse” America. 

When we look at Black women and their history with abortions it becomes clear that restricting reproductive rights has always been a systematic issue for Black women for more than 400 years and its presence persists to this day.

Before and following the abolishment of slavery and Emancipation in the mid-1860s, rules about abortions differed greatly for Black women; society and the medical field have a long history of perceiving Black people as more tolerant of pain and subhuman.

By the twentieth century, a wave of conservative values surrounding abortion and reproductive rights swept through the American government. This wave was aided by a series of physicians and female health specialists, who were exclusively all White men who saw abortions as a threat to America’s morality. 

It wasn’t until the mid-1960s, that growing opposition to bans and restrictions on abortions occurred. By the sixties, over 11 states had liberalized their abortion laws. This wave of greater abortion access led to the Supreme Court’s decision in 1973 that established the legal right to abortion rights with Roe vs. Wade. 

As of 2023, the legacy of abortions plays a fundamental role in women’s reproductive rights and is being threatened. Abortions being easily accessible for women across state lines shall always be a basic right.

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