History of abortion goes back in centuries; women were using various abortion techniques in the past (Potts, Diggory, and Peel 1977). Abortion was not banned in ancient societies, it was not considered illegal…
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However the perception of abortion has changed over the centuries. Abortion became one of the most controversial and debatable subjects in the modern society. Donald T. Critchlow (Critchlow 1996, 1) points out that abortion transformed into political issue since “reproduction rights became public policy.” There are various issues related to abortion: ethical, biological, religious and others. Those issues have transformed over the years and social understanding of them has changed. I believe that the most tragic subject of anti-abortion laws is the issue of maternal-mortality when performing illegal abortions. In this paper I will provide analysis of issues related to maternal mortality prior to the time when abortions were considered legal in the US, precisely the time period between 1800s – 1900s. Anti-abortion legislation in the US caused millions of deaths from illegal abortion and poor medical assistance. Abortion procedure is not something new, it has been known for ages. Women were doing abortions for long time and they will keep doing them even if it is considered illegal. The question is: what price society is ready to pay for this and how many more women have to die. Unfortunately there is no exact statistical data of how many women died during the anti-abortion era. In the beginning of 20th century maternal mortality ratio indicated 600 deaths per 100 000 livebirths in the USA (Ronsmans and Graham September 30, 2006, 4). This number was significantly bigger before the 1900s due to the poor medical conditions and illegal status of abortions. There is no precise data of illegal abortions due to several reasons. First of all, women were ashamed to report on having an abortion. Secondly, they experienced family and social pressure and guilt and preferred to hide the fact of abortion. At the same time wrong and misleading reports from medical institutions blurred the real number of deaths from illegal abortions (Rose 2008, 114). Connecticut was the first American state that prohibited abortion in 1821. Later on other states followed its example and banned termination of pregnancy as well. The issue of abortion was forbidden to discuss for a very long time in American society. This situation forced women to use some illegal abortion services, thus putting their lives in danger. Women were allowed to have a legal abortion in exceptional cases predetermined by their medical conditions (Frankowski and Cole 1987, 20). In this situation women used severe and dangerous techniques to terminate unwanted pregnancies. They used knitting needles and coating hangers, douched with some poisonous chemicals or took some strong pills in order to perform the procedure themselves. All these methods put women’s lives in danger. Oftentimes they needed immediate professional medical assistance, but it was difficult for them to get it, due to social stigma and prejudices. If the abortion did not work women tried to perform the procedure again and again (Boston Women's Health Book Collective. 1998). I believe there were several reasons for abortion to be considered illegal. First of all, in the 1800 this surgical procedure was highly risky and the high mortality rates proved that. However majority of surgical procedures were risky for patients at that time. Secondly, anti-abortion legislation created a control mechanism over women. Later on this control and restrictions had a great impact on the feminist movements (Gordon 1976). Thirdly, male doctors increased their control over the medical field and consolidated their power. Finally, American government tried to scare the white population of the possible “race suicide.” Therefore white women were highly recommended to give birth (Boston Women's
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