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Attitudes to Abortion in America, 1800-1973

R. Sauer
Population Studies
Vol. 28, No. 1 (Mar., 1974), pp. 53-67
DOI: 10.2307/2173793
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2173793
Page Count: 15
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Attitudes to Abortion in America, 1800-1973
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Abstract

A survey of popular and professional literature indicates that there have been significant changes both in the popular and legal attitudes to abortion in America since 1800. The evolution of these attitudes may be broken into four periods: (1) the early nineteenth-century period, in which women apparently only infrequently sought abortions, even though legal norms proscribing most abortions were non-existent; (2) the mid-nineteenth-century period, in which women were seen to resort to abortion increasingly while at the same time more restrictive abortion laws were passed; (3) the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century period, in which abortion became more common even though the prevailing anti-abortion norms still went publicly unchallenged; (4) the 1930-73 period, in which there developed, at first slowly, and then in the 1960s rapidly, an overt rejection of anti-abortion norms which was then reflected in corresponding changes of the law. Several possible factors in the liberalization of abortion attitudes are briefly presented, perhaps the most important being the development of low-fertility values evoked by the emergence of a modern industrial society.

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