Abortion in early pregnancy was not only commonplace but widely regarded as morally acceptable.
Opinion by LESLIE J. REAGAN
If it were possible to eavesdrop on conversations among women and some doctors in early America, you might overhear the phrase “bringing on the menses.” If a woman didn’t menstruate when expected, she was considered to be sick and action was required to bring her back to health. Women who had “a common cold” — a euphemism for “obstructed” menses — used a variety of methods, teas and concoctions to bring “their menses back.”
In other words, returning menstruation to its normal cycle was within the purview of a woman’s own self-health care and was not regulated by the state until after “quickening” — the moment during a pregnancy when a woman could feel a fetus kick and recognized a life “stirring” within her. Quickening occurred between the fourth and sixth month of pregnancy. Only after quickening was an induced miscarriage, an abortion, considered immoral and banned by law.