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History of Abortion in America (Term Paper Sample)


Discussing the history of abortion in America by citing prominent case laws

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History of Abortion in America
Abortion is a contentious social issue that dominates polarized debates and generates varied reactions from political and social cultures in the United States. It also generates headlines based on the ethical, moral and scientific controversies across the world. A historical review of laws and policies demonstrates that physicians borrowed the idea of abortion from women healers (Kathy and Elaine 267). The issue of abortion became a controversial medical issue during the late 19th century. During the 1960s and 1970s, abortion became a policy issue regarding women’s rights. Conservative groups such as the family and religious organizations personalized abortion as an issue that undermines their tenets. Institutional authorities such as courts, parliaments, and medical professions have been instrumental in inventing and implementing rules that prohibit abortion. Such attempts are aimed at controlling the sexual and reproductive lives of women.
Presidential administrations have signaled or opposed practices that encourage the elimination of human embryos. The differences among political decisions shows that public policies that govern abortion are contentious and highly partisan in the United States of America. Virtually, all aspiring and new presidential administrations must make critical decisions regarding abortion during their campaigns. A good example is the adoption of the Mexico City Policy announced by President Reagan’s administration. According to the Mexico City Policy, all nongovernmental organizations with international operations are required to refrain from advising, performing, or endorsing abortion in order to qualify for federal funding. Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton (1993) and Barrack Obama (2009) rescinded the Mexico City Policy while Republican President George W Bush restored it on 22 January 2001 (Bendavid, Avila, and Miller 873). In 1980, Anti-abortion policies helped President Reagan to the presidency in order to implement the right to life policies.
Contemporary Debates
Before digging into the historical background of the issue of abortion in the United States, noting general observations on the contemporary aspect of abortion is worthwhile. There are extensive range of views and attitudes to abortion in the American Society. The absolutist feminist perspective and the absolutist sanctity of life view are the major spectrums behind the abortion debate. Conservative views regarding the roles of men and women is the major driving factor for opposing views against abortion. Abortion opponents view abortion as a threat to the social order and destroys the family buttress. Feminist perceptions of abortion argue that abstract rules should not be imposed on situations that determine the moral justification for abortion. Instead, feminists emphasize on contextual questions such as safety, accessibility, cost, personal circumstances, feelings, and wishes of the woman as the decisive factors that must be used to guide abortion. As a contentious issue in the US, the durability of the abortion debate is based on the level of feelings it generates in addition to the inherent gravity of the concerned issues. However, other individuals and groups are convinced that they have a right to abortion and they make efforts to ensure that their beliefs on abortion are translated to law.
A brief history
The medical profession strongly influenced the history of abortion law in the US. Keown (3) argues that the Anglo-American common law tradition disapproved or punished abortion for over 700 years. It was believed that abortion amounted to assisted suicide. The common law in the mid-thirteenth century punished abortion after fetal formation as homicide. The fetus was believed to be ensouled 40 days after conception because it was believed that it had adopted a recognizable human shape. Mid-seventeenth century laws prohibited abortion on grounds of causing serious misdemeanors and great misprision (Keown 5). Early nineteenth–century common laws introduced the idea of "quickening”, which was believed to occur between 12th-20th weeks of pregnancy. During this period, a pregnant woman experienced fetal movements. The common law prohibited abortion during this period because it marked the beginning of life for the unborn (Keown 5).
Statutory restrictions of the prohibition were witnessed in the nineteenth century due to the emerging discoveries in the medical profession. Findings from medical researchers showed that human life began at fertilization. Quickening distinctions became morally irrelevant. Laws to protect the life of the unborn tightened during this periods. The first legislation on abortion was passed in Connecticut in 1821 with other legislations undergoing significant changes. The New York legislation changed its abortion laws more than 10 times during the period 1828 and 1881. About 13 state laws that forbid abortion at any stage were passed between 1840 and 1850. The Supreme Court in Iowa in 1856 upheld that pre-quickening abortion did not amount to crime....
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