Abortion facts

* The term “abortion” is derived from the Latin “abortus” (“ab” — wrong, not in time + “oriri” — to be born, to appear).

* An Egyptian Medical Papyrus from 1850 BC proposes to use crocodile excrements for the prevention or termination of pregnancy. In Arabic medicine, elephant feces were recommended for this purpose. The Ebers Papyrus (1550 BC) contains several recipes that lead to the termination of pregnancy in the first, second or third trimester. One of them proposes vaginal suppositories that include a combination of unripe fruit of acacia, fruits of colocynthis, dates, honey, a mixture which must be poured into soaked vegetable fibers.

* Although full agreement on when the fetus becomes a person has never been made, the most common perception of the ancient Hebrews, Greeks and Romans came to the fact that there cannot exist a soul in an “unformed” / “unexpected” body, and, therefore, the law did not consider abortion a murder until the baby was formed. However, other scholars such as Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Asia Minor (330-379 AD), called abortion at any stage of the fetal development a murder.

* Aristotle believed that the soul of a male fetus appears on the 40th day after the conception, and the female one — on the 90th (similar differentiation can be seen in the Book of Leviticus 12:1-5 in the Bible). Later, Aristotle said that the fetus is developing “step by step” and that knowing this for sure did not seem possible.

* The Stoic philosophers believed that the soul appears when the fetus comes out to fresh air, although such a possibility also existed in the moment of conception.

* According to ancient Jewish laws, a woman was considered to be pregnant 40 days after conception, therefore abortion could not be regarded as a crime up to that point.

* In the Middle Ages, abortion was tolerated and was not contrary to the law. There were a lot of mixtures for an abortion, such as the one known as the “cup of roots” and “the cure for any pain in the abdomen”. The medieval lady Tortula of Salerno, probably may have been the first woman gynecologist. She supplied drugs for women with “delayed menstruation”, which was sometimes a cipher of early abortifacients.

* In the Renaissance period, abortion was still allowed, although scientists of this era knew much less about birth control and abortifacients than their medieval, Arabic and classical predecessors. Perhaps it was a consequence of the transition of medicine from a practical apprenticeship to male theoretical universities and the growing gap between the doctors and midwifery, as well as a great desire to start a family.

* In 1820, the status of the fetus began to find its place in the laws of the United States. In the period between 1821 and 1841, legislators and physicians established the control over the practice of medicine, and so they began to issue strict laws that controlled the creation and sale of poisons. The first law banning abortion was issued in Connecticut in 1821.

* Perhaps the most prominent and well-known expert in clandestine abortions in the nineteenth century was madam Restelli, whose real name was Anna Lohman. Although she was arrested several times, she has successfully owned a network of agencies in Boston and Philadelphia. Merchants were supplying her with the means of abortion and were bringing patients to her clinic.

* In the 19th century, the phrase “caught a cold” was a common allegory to describe the delay of the menstrual cycle.

* Early feminists such as Elizabeth Stanton Keady (1815-1902) and Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) condemned abortion, calling them male tools for the sexual exploitation of women and the evasion of responsibility to support the family.

* In 1857, a Boston physician Horatio Robinson Storer (often called the “father of American gynecology”) convinced the American Medical Association to sign a petition to state legislators for a stricter regulation of the ambiguous and condescending American policy towards abortion.

* Until 1870s, abortive practice had a period of widespread tooth removal in pregnant women. Because of the pain and shock caused by tooth extraction without any anesthetic, this method was considered as a means of abortion.

* By the early 20th century, all the states and the District of Columbia have officially declared abortion illegal. However, during the time when abortion was not considered a crime (1867-1973), millions of abortions were carried out across the world.

* During the Great Depression, when having become pregnant, women could have lost their jobs, the number of clandestine abortions has risen sharply.

* In the 40s and 50s of the 20th century, the pressure of laws against abortion has become more organized and systematic, although about a million of abortions were held every year, and about 5,000 women were dying.

* In 1973, after considering the case of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court declared abortion laws invalid and decided that all women, in consultation with the experts, have a constitutional right to abortion before the fetus becomes viable, without any governmental interference.

* Nazi Germany forbade women of a “good race” to have abortions and allowed them to those who had a “bad heredity”.

* Today, the lowest percentage of abortions is in Belgium (11.2 per 100) and the Netherlands (10.6 per 100), and the highest one — in Russia (62.6 per 100) and Vietnam (43.7 per 100).

* The development of ultrasound and amniocentesis allow parents to determine the sex of the baby before birth, which apparently led some countries to increase the number of abortions based on the gender of the fetus.

* At the moment when fertilization occurs, the identification of the baby, including sex, hair and eye color are already determined.

* On the 7th week from conception, the baby’s heart is already beating.

* On the16th week, the child reacts to loud sounds.

* On the 20th week from conception, the child’s eyelashes can be seen.

* The pain of the fetus is extremely difficult to establish in the early months of pregnancy, because pain involves complex factors of sensitivity, emotions and perception. Many scientists believe that the fetus begins to feel the pain around 28 weeks of pregnancy, because at this time he develops important nerve connections that contribute to the perception of pain by the brain.

* By 2003, about 42 million abortions a year, or 115,000 daily, were carried out in the world. Their number has decreased since 1995, when 46 million abortions a year were carried out.

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