A Look Back
Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackman, in his 1973 Roe v. Wade majority opinion, asserted that in early America abortion was acceptable up until quickening—which is at about five months, when the mother can start to feel the unborn baby inside of her womb. But we actually found in our research that in early America abortions were considered murder.
The very first recorded abortion in America from 1652 was Captain William Mitchell, who was from England, after impregnating Susan Warren, a servant of his. He did not want there to be a baby. He actually forced her to eat an abortifacient in a poached egg. After eating that, she miscarried. She had an abortion. Eventually, Captain Mitchell went on trial for murder.
We have another case from several years later where we actually know how old the baby was when it was aborted. It was at roughly three months of gestation. Still, the man who encouraged the abortion, who gave the mother the abortifacient, went on trial for murder.
So, if early American men were going on trial for forcing women to eat abortifacients, we certainly can’t believe what Justice Blackman wrote in his original Roe v. Wade opinion.
Leah Savas is the coauthor with Marvin Olasky of The Story of Abortion in America: A Street-Level History, 1652–2022.
God alone is the potter. He alone knits cells together in the womb to form a baby human. He alone has the right to destroy or glorify the work of his hands.
There is plenty of scholarship looking into the political history of abortion in America or the legal history, but we wanted to take a different angle.
I cannot forecast accurately the changes that will come in the first post-Roe decade. I can, though, list some fundamental things that will still apply.
Leah Savas talks about some of the forgotten history of abortion and about the efforts to protect unborn life in America that extend back over 300 years, even before the nation's founding.