Nineteenth-century Americans Knew the Fetus Was a Person
January 2, 2013
National Review Online has an interesting piece about the legal history of abortion in America. Apparently there’s a certain liberal narrative that “the true purpose of 19th-century abortion laws was to protect women, not unborn children,” and that there was a “right” to abortion in Anglo-American common law “from 1607 to 1830.”
Apparently this narrative is far from historically accurate, and the liberal lawyers who crafted it were sometimes surprisingly explicit (among themselves) about what they were doing:
. . . begin with a scholarly attempt at historical research; if it doesn’t work out, fudge it as necessary; write a piece so long that others will read only your introduction and conclusion; then keep citing it until the courts begin picking it up. This preserves the guise of impartial scholarship while advancing the proper ideological goals.
(Quote from a Yale law student who was on the Roe legal team for Roe vs. Wade.)
Read all about it. Of course abortion’s objective moral status is what it is regardless of whether some nineteenth-century legislator was thinking of the mother’s good or the child’s, but if nothing else, I think this is interesting stuff.
Although the role of history in abortion litigation has quietly faded to the background in the Court’s most recent abortion cases, it bears noting that the politically motivated abortion history crudely constructed by activists and academics in the 1960s and 1970s has enjoyed a remarkable shelf life.