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Was abortion legal in the 19th century?  

Abortion was legal prior to the mother feeling fetal movement or ‘quickening.’ This was the point when most women believed the unborn child became alive.  There was little technology or medical image to inform the law.  
Suffragists, however, believed in educating women about embryo development.  The Revolution ran lectures by Anna Densmore Frenc
h that would impact maternal understanding that the unborn was alive throughout pregnancy. This education by suffragists, particularly in The Revolution, and the public debate it spurred, is likely to have played a role in changing laws to make abortion illegal even earlier in pregnancy.  

Where did people get their training to perform abortions?  

Abortion violated the Hippocratic Oath, therefore was not part of any formal medical training. However, some midwives performed abortion using herbs and toxic substances, knowledge handed down over generations. A wildly popular book of natural treatments throughout 17th century New England was John Gerard’s, The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes [sic] (Link to Book). Another herbalist book, said to contain more than a dozen preparations of botanicals used to cause miscarriage, was Culpeper’s, The English Physician and Complete Herbal (Brodie, p. 42) (Link to Book Content)

​What were other reasons for women to become doctors?  

Other than general humanitarian reasons, female doctors wanted to teach maternal and family care, and promote a general understanding of pregnancy, embryology and childbirth. Understanding the female anatomy was critical to The Revolution’s publishers. It published lectures on the development of the embryo by Anna Densmore French, the founder of Sorosis, an organization that emphasized care for single mothers and their children.  

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first women in the United to States to receive her degree in medicine, entered the profession to curb abortio

"I finally determined to do what I could to redeem the hell' and especially the one form of hell-abortions-thus forced upon my notice."

(Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women, page 30)

How were the ‘quack or immoral’ medicines, opposed in The Revolution’s inaugural edition, differentiated?   

The Revolution supported tightening laws against abortifacients. For instance, The Revolution states:

“IMPORTANT MOVEMENT. - A bill has been favorably reported in the N.Y. legislature providing for the inspection all “patent or quack medicines.” The audacity of which newspapers, religious as well as others, will advertise these abominations, has done much to rouse the popular indignation. It is high time to move for some protection against their deadly influence, both moral and spiritual as well as material. Restellism has long found in these broths of Beelzebub, its securest hiding places.”  

-The Revolution, April 8, 1869, pg 221.

Did suffragists support making abortion legal? 

The Revolution quote signed by ‘A’ discussed above (‘we want prevention, not merely punishment’) does not indicate that suffragists wanted abortion to be legal.  To the contrary, the authors believed being a crime was not enough.  They wanted to prevent the need for it through the vote.  As stated earlier, Dr. Charlotte Lozier used the law to arrest a man seeking an abortion for his ‘cousin’.   Dr. Alice Bunker Stockham said the persons responsible ‘for the forcible deprivation of existence of the embryo…is guilty of the crime of all crimes.” The Revolution even congratulated New York for tightening abortion laws. Suffragists’ language did not frame their frequent use of the word crime as it related to abortion in oppositional terms. ‘{C}rime against humanity’, ‘the crime of child-murder’ hardly implies their opposition to it being a crime.  
The strong and frequent opposition expressed in The Revolution to ‘the evil practice’ coincided nearly directly with the tightening of abortion restrictions in New York, a law that was praised in The Revolution.


tWhat were the legal circumstances of abortion like in the 19th century?

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