That Abortions Have Been Done Throughout History Doesn’t Make Abortion Okay

Opinion   |   Luis Zaffirini   |   Feb 12, 2014   |   6:35PM   |   Washington, DC

I understand that forming a sound argument in favor of abortion is inherently difficult. Twitter’s 140-character constraint only compounds this difficulty.  So I should be forgiving of pro-aborts and their itchy Twitter fingers, but some inane tweets deserve parsing. And, in fairness, the tweet was addressed to National Right to Life.

I’ll spare you the author’s name to avoid rewarding that person with added attention. On Twitter yesterday, National Right to Life was asked whether we realize that people in every society and throughout history have sought abortions in response to unplanned pregnancies.

prolifeimageThis is not a new concept.

In Roe v. Wade, Justice Blackmun professed to address the history of abortion. He wrote that abortion was attested to in many ancient civilizations and quotes Dr.  Ludwig Edelstein as saying that in Greek and Roman society it was practiced “without scruple.”   He also cites common law going back to 1762 under which abortions performed before quickening were not an indictable offense. I’ll give you a moment to look “quickening” up on Wikipedia.

I can’t help but wonder what sort of sentiment that argument is meant to elicit. Should it be a sense of camaraderie with our ancestors? Or is it nostalgia? Are we supposed to pine for the time when abortions were performed without full knowledge of the facts of unborn life, with impunity and without compunction?

Were those the good old days?

Someone who thinks this way glosses over other moments in history like Horatio Storer’s physicians’ crusade against abortion. But that happened in the late 1800s, so perhaps too late in history to qualify for this particular pro-abortion argument. How about 1965, when Lennart Nilsson stunned the world with actual photographs of unborn babies? I mean, that made it into LIFE magazine. But for the abortion proponent, the history of abortion includes only the dim and distant past and a present full of people who imagine that our knowledge about human life in utero has not advanced since Greco-Roman times.



But if that argument still convinces you that abortion is an appropriate response for a modern civilized society, here is a list of other practices from throughout history (until relatively recently): slavery, bloodletting, necromancy, child labor… The point is that the historical bandwagon approach is probably not the route to take in persuading people about the value of abortion in society.

So the argument can be summed up as: Abortion is a-okay because everyone has always done it…despite science and the fundamental right to life.

How far we’ve come!