History of the decriminalization of abortion

In the earliest written sources, abortion is not considered a general category of offense. In itself, specific types of abortion are prohibited for various reasons, both social and political. In the first texts, it is difficult to see how much a particular religious mandate had strength as a secular law. In later texts, the justification of abortion laws can be sought in a wide variety of fields, including philosophy, religion, and jurisprudence. These reasons are not always included in the drafting of current laws.

Ancient sources

In more modern times, tribal peoples have had access to many abortive plants, emenagogues and contraceptives, all of them with varying degrees of effectiveness. 1 2 Some of these are mentioned in the earliest literature of the ancient world, yet mentions related to abortion are scarce in the earliest written texts.

Social considerations

In the ancient world, discussions of offspring limitation, whether through contraception, abortion, or infanticide were often tied to population control discussions, patriarchal property rights, and the regulation of women exercising Illicit sex. 3 4 5 Cicero explains:

“I remember a case that occurred when I was in Asia: a woman from Miletus, who had accepted a bribe from the alternative heirs and obtained herself an abortion with drugs, was sentenced to death: and rightly so, for having deceived the Hopes of the father, the continuity of his name, the support of his family, his house and descendants and the Republic of a citizen-for-being. ” 6

Rich or poor families may have had different reasons for carrying out offspring restraint practices. The rich may have concerns about dividing large inheritances into smaller portions for many heirs. A poor family may have been unable to feed a large number of children. 7 Sometimes extreme poverty may have led some to cannibalism.

Aristotle held concerns that today fall under the label of eugenics.  From their point of view, abortion and infanticide were permissible when they agreed with the welfare of the state. He argued for the mandatory exposure of children born with deformities and that abortion be considered as advisable when a couple had exceeded their quota of children or at the optimum age to procreate since he believed that the eudaimonia of the individual is intertwined with Welfare state. 8 9 Plato had views similar to those of Aristotle.

In Hindu scriptures, the subject is interpreted to reflect a concern to preserve the preservation of the male seed of the three pure “castes,” meaning a word associated with abortion, bhrūṇahan, being “the killer of a learned Brahmin.” The limitations of offspring facilitated the financial stability of influential families, preserving social order. The men of these castes were recruited for the execution of important religious rituals. 10 Although the caste mix was severely condemned, abortion was not recommended. Instead, the texts expose a complex set of rules for the social integration of people born of such unions.

Note :


  1. Back to top↑ Native American ethnobotany By Daniel E. Moerman
  2. Back to top↑ [1]
  3. Back to top↑ The Return of Quetzalcoatl
  4. Back to top↑ [2]
  5. Back to top↑ Available on SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1132482
  6. Back to top↑ Greek and Roman Attitudes A Abortion
  7. Back to top↑ Boswell
  8. Back to top↑ Abortion and infanticide: when ontology overlaps ethics and Peter Singer repeats Stoics “in Ancient Culture, European and Serbian Heritage, Series:” Antiquity and Modern World “, Scientific Publications of the Serbian Society for Ancient Studies, Novi Sad 2010, V.
  9. Back to top↑ Greek and Roman Attitudes A Abortion
  10. Back to top↑ @ – March 2010 [3]