I would like to add to Arthur’s post 160 with some additional history to the disgrace that is Roe.
A BRIEF SURVEY OF US ABORTION LAW BEFORE THE 1973 DECISION
By Brian Young (excerpts) http://www.ewtn.com/library/PROLIFE/LIFBFROE.TXT
In the years prior to and immediately after the American Revolution, colonists and citizens followed the rule of law brought by British settlers, the “common law.” Rather than being a code of statutes passed by a legislature and printed in a book, the common law was a set of legal standards established in England through court decisions and legal custom.
According to Sir William Blackstone, the renowned 18th century English jurist, under common law, the abortion of a ‘quickened’ fetus was a ‘very heinous misdemeanor.’ At that time the penalty for misdemeanors could be severe; loss of a limb, confiscation of property or life in prison.
‘Quickening’ - when a pregnant woman first feels her child move - generally occurs in the fourth month. Scholars have noted that the common law requirement of a ‘quickened’ baby for the crime of abortion was probably based on a very practical consideration. Since there were no pregnancy tests in the 18th century, evidence that a baby’s movement had been felt might have been the only way to establish with any certainty in a court of law that a pregnancy had existed.
The abandonment of the “quickening” requirement coincided with the 19th century discovery of how conception takes place. The public, lawmakers and jurists were becoming aware of the scientific fact that life begins when a sperm enters an ovum.
Abortion Statutes of the 19th & 20th Centuries (excerpts) http://www.missourilife.org/law/preroe.htm
During the first decades of the 1800’s, scientists began to understand the cellular basis of life and for the first time were able to observe the process of fertilization in mammals. As the stages of development became clear, it also became clear that abortion kills a living human being, no matter what the stage of the child’s development. The resulting scientific knowledge about the process of conception and development led to efforts to enact stronger bans on abortion. In addition, scientific progress allowed for surgical means of performing abortion, and abortion was perceived to be on the increase. Beginning in 1859, the American Medical Association called for strong anti-abortion laws and vigorous enforcement of them. In view of the claim by twentieth century abortionists that physicians did this only to protect their own profession or solely to protect women’s health, it is useful to quote the doctors themselves on why they wanted action by the states:
“The first of these causes is a wide-spread popular ignorance of the true character of the crime—a belief, even among mothers themselves, that the foetus is not alive till after the period of quickening.
“The second of the agents alluded to is the fact that the profession themselves are frequently supposed careless of fetal life; . . .
“The third reason of the frightful extent of this crime is found in the grave defects of our laws, both common and statute, as regards the independent and actual existence of the child before birth, as a living being.
“In accordance, therefore, with the facts in the case, the Committee would advise that this body, representing, as it does, the physicians of the land, publicly express its abhorrence of the unnatural and now rapidly increasing crime of abortion; that it avow its true nature, as no simple offence against public morality and decency, no mere misdemeanor, no attempt upon the life of the mother, but the wanton and murderous destruction of her child. . “ Volume 12, Transactions of the American Medical Association, pp. 75-78 (1859).
The AMA adopted the recommendation described above and sponsored initiatives in all states, spurring most legislatures to enact strong prohibitions upon abortion that swept away the “quickening” distinction. In the remaining states, abortion remained prohibited by common law.
A BRIEF SURVEY OF US ABORTION LAW BEFORE THE 1973 DECISION
by Brian Young (excerpts) http://www.ewtn.com/library/PROLIFE/LIFBFROE.TXT
Pro-abortion historians claim that these laws were passed primarily, if not solely, to protect women from possibly fatal abortions. Concern for pre-term babies was not a factor, they claim. Yet, as law professor Joseph Dellapenna has noted, all surgeries at that time involved substantial risks of death. If legislators were motivated to pass anti-abortion statutes only to protect women, why did they not protect other patients by banning other potentially dangerous fatal elective surgeries?
Coincidentally or not, during this period of pro-life legislative activity Congress passed and 28 states ratified the 14th Amendment, prohibiting any state from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property without the due process of law.”
By 1910, every state except Kentucky had passed an anti-abortion law (and Kentucky’s courts had declared abortion at any stage of gestation to be illegal).
By 1967, not much had changed. In 49 states, abortion was a felony; in New Jersey, it was a high misdemeanor. Furthermore, 29 states banned abortion advertising, and many outlawed the manufacture or distribution of abortifacients. In 1967, though, state abortion laws began to change, but only after years of organized campaigns by pro-abortion forces.
The American Law Institute (ALI) proposed, in its 1959 model criminal code for all the states, a “reform” abortion law. The model bill, approved by ALI in 1962, declared that abortion should be permitted for the physical or mental health of the mother, for fetal abnormality, and for rape or incest.
While leaders of the American legal community were promoting radical changes in state abortion law, a 1962 case in Arizona generated sympathetic press coverage of the notion of “justifiable abortion.”
Mrs. Sherri Finkbine, a married mother, made public her intention to abort her fifth child. She had taken some tranquilizers/sleeping pills her husband had brought home from a trip to England. The pills turned out to be Thalidomide, a drug that had become associated with birth defects. Fearful of giving birth to a handicapped child, Mrs Finkbine traveled to Sweden, where she had her baby aborted.
In June 1967, the American Medical Association voted to change that body’s long-standing opposition to abortion. With a new resolution, the AMA now condoned abortion for the life or health of the mother, for a baby’s ‘incapacitating’ physical deformity or mental deficiency, or for cases of rape or incest.
That same year, Colorado, North Carolina, and California became the first states to adopt versions of the ALI “reform” abortion law. By 1970, though, four states - New York, Alaska, Hawaii and Washington - passed laws that basically allowed abortion on demand. Of those four, New York’s was the only law without a residency requirement and the state quickly became the nation’s abortion capital.
The pro-abortion onslaught was beginning to face opposition, though, as pro-life forces organized. In 1972, the New York legislature voted to repeal the state’s liberal abortion law, but Governor Nelson Rockefeller vetoed the repeal. Ballot questions in Michigan and North Dakota in 1972 attempted to decriminalize abortion; the measures were defeated by majorities of 63% and 78%, respectively.
Just as pro-lifers were beginning to turn the tide however, the Supreme Court handed down Roe vs Wade in January 1973. With one judicial stroke, over 200 years of legal protection for the unborn was rendered null and void. For the first time in American history, abortion was the “law of the land”.
Thank you for that in-depth information on abortion history. I’ll be studying it more closely after this VEEP matter is resolved.