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Oskar Diethelm Library, Weill Cornell Medical College



1894 J35j

The criminalization of abortion in America rapidly increased in the mid-19th century, primarily because of efforts by doctors and the American Medical Association, which had been recently founded. Doctors were trying to standardize the medical profession at this time and wanted to remove “irregulars,” such as midwives, abortion providers, and homeopaths, who were mostly not professionally trained or members of medical societies and viewed as cheap competition to the doctors. Many of the new laws allowed doctors to perform abortions if they were “therapeutic abortions,” but otherwise, by 1910, abortion was criminal in almost every state, except in cases to save the child-bearing person’s life. One example of the changing views on abortion can be seen in the pictured 1894 text. In addition, the Comstock Laws was passed in 1873, which prohibited the publication or circulation of information on abortion, contraception, and venereal diseases, even to medical students.