There’s no more hot-button issue in the United States than that of abortion. And every time the divisive battle flares up, someone is bound to invoke the historical legacy of abortion in America.
But what is that history? Though interpretations differ, most scholars who have investigated the complex history of abortion argue that terminating a pregnancy wasn’t always illegal—or even controversial. Here’s what they say about the nation’s long, complicated relationship with abortion.
In colonial America and the early days of the republic, there were no abortion laws at all. Church officials frowned on the practice, writes Oklahoma University of Law legal historian Carla Spivack in the William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice, but they treated