Feminist Lens #6

I was very intrigued by the discussion that we had in class today about abortion. However, I think that in order to really talk about this controversial topic, I should be better informed about abortion. The “Stuff Mom Never Told You” podcast just came out with “A revisionist History of Abortion” which they clarified was going to be about the United States- it’s a very important distinction to make that I and all transnational feminists must certainly appreciate. Discussions about abortion are different depending on the culture, country, and time and should be addressed as such. This does not imply a lighter stance, but rather, a more accurate and pointed one.

These women, Kristin and Caroline, did this podcast to try and give some context to an issue that has become so mixed into politics and because of this we have forgotten some of the history of abortion. In ancient Greece, Aristotle advised abortion for couples who already had too many children. In ancient Rome, before a mother could feel the first movement of the child, it was still considered just a developing part of her body.  Even the catholic church did not condemn abortions before 40 days arguing that the “soul hadn’t yet entered the fetus” although today, the rhetoric has changed drastically and claims that the soul appears at the moment of conception. Therefore, in general, early abortion (around first trimester) in ancient times was up to the mother’s judgement.

Apparently, herbal remedies were the most common methods at the time where these women would essentially drink teas with ingredients that would poison them (slightly) enough so that the body would have to miscarry the fetus to protect the mother. Still, taking these remedies that were eventually made into pill form, seemed to always be somewhat secretive as is indicated by extensive euphemisms in letters between women and anonymity when visiting doctors who prescribed the remedies. Although, while it wasn’t a moral favorite yet, there were no laws under English Common Law and the early United States, against these abortions. Abortions after this time period, under English Common Law, was punishable by death. Arguably this was still with the mothers safety in mind to deter them from poisoning themselves… so, don’t poison yourselves ladies, or we’ll kill you. Obviously, there was a lot of room for growth back then too.

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