The Tragedy of the Unwanted Child: What Ancient Cultures Did Before Abortion

Safe abortion is the modern cure for the ancient heartbreaks of neonaticide and abandonment.

Rob Brooks
24 Jun 2022

Talk about abortion is dominating the US culture wars, again. A leaked US Supreme Court majority opinion foreshadows the overturning of 1973’s Roe vs. Wade decision protecting a woman’s liberty to terminate a pregnancy without excessive government restriction, sparking joy among anti-abortion campaigners and dread among choice advocates. Anyone naive to the last 50 years of abortion politics might think the sides are concerned with two entirely different phenomena. One advocates a woman’s right to reproductive and bodily autonomy, whereas the other condemns what it considers to be a form of homicide.

self-declared “pro-lifers” consider the termination of a pregnancy the moral
equivalent of taking a newborn life. Their strategies, including the endless
debates over when a fetus becomes viable, seek to blur distinctions between
aborting a fetus and killing a newborn child. So much so that few on the
pro-choice side welcome discussion about the relationship between abortion and
infanticide. I argue here that an understanding of that relationship—drawing on
evidence from centuries of history and millennia of evolution—leads to the
conclusion that abortion is the most humane alternative to infanticide, adding
to the case for safe, legal, accessible abortion for women who need it.