Monday 29 November 2010

Abortion is a modern phenomenon

Every Monday EFC busts myths and takes names, cutting through the misinformation, disinformation, and straight up nonsense to bring you the facts.

It is often assumed that abortion is a modern phenomenon, resulting from liberal sexual practices that have become every day in the post-pill, post-legalised abortion world. In fact there is documented evidence in the Ebers Papyrus of abortion taking place as far back as 1550BC in ancient Egypt and stories of abortion in China that reach back 5,000 years. Just as today, some of these abortions were carried out for social and emotional reasons and others to avoid obstetric emergencies or other health reasons.

Aristotle wrote (384-322 BC) ‘When couples have children in excess, let abortion be procured before sense and life have begun’

Depictions of abortion in Ancient Greece are quite detailed and include descriptions of a range of different methods from self-induced abortion through strenuous activity or ingesting specific substances, to surgical abortions, similar to the Dilatation and Curettage abortion still sometimes used today.

Over centuries ‘wise women’, midwives and herbalists have prescribed a range of abortifacient herbs and potions some of which may have been more effective than others. In the years immediately prior to the legalisation of abortion in the UK women used a range of dangerous methods to try to self-induce abortion including drinking gin and taking a scalding hot bath, or injecting toxic solutions into the uterus. Safer abortion was available to women who were able to pay to see a psychiatrist who could give approval for the abortion to go ahead on mental health grounds.

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