Abortion: A Founding American Tradition? – Into Context

History is at the heart of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to roll back abortion rights. In a nation founded on a centuries old Constitution it raises the question: what did the Founding Fathers think of abortion?

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Hosted by: Indy Neidel and Spartacus Olsson
Director: Astrid Deinhard
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Written by: Francis van Berkel
Research by: Francis van Berkel
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-Dayton, Cornelia Hughes. “Taking the Trade: Abortion and Gender Relations in an Eighteenth-Century New England Village.” The William and Mary Quarterly: A Magazine of Early American History and Culture (1991): 19-49.
-Gordon, Linda. The moral property of women: A history of birth control politics in America. University of Illinois press, 2002.
-Mohr, James C. Abortion in America: The origins and evolution of national policy. Oxford University Press, 1979.
-“No. 19-1392 Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization: Brief for Amici Curiae American Historical Association and Organization of American History in Support of Respondents.” (2021).
-Riddle, John M. Eve’s herbs: a history of contraception and abortion in the West. Harvard University Press, 1997.

David Rumsey Map Collection, David Rumsey Map Center, Stanford Libraries

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25 thoughts on “Abortion: A Founding American Tradition? – Into Context

  1. Why not call it as it is? Baby murder, not abortion, it's a practice promoted and used by satanists and the pure evil of the world. But oh well if you support abortion then you have no right to object to Hitler forced sterilization and abortion of all of those deemed non Aryans.

  2. I don't know of any other country that attempts to delve into the minds of their national founders as hard as the USA. I mean I don't believe Danes consider what Gorm the Old or Harlald Bluetooth would have felt about current events. Thanks for the critical analysis of this topic and its historical context.

  3. You obviously don't know much about Church history or didn't do your research. The Church banned abortion back in the first century. Calls a lot of other things you have said before into question if you can't get that right, or you're ignoring parts of history for your own sources.

    "Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery,} thou shalt not corrupt boys, thou shalt not commit fornication, {thou shalt not steal,} thou shalt not deal in magic, thou shalt do no sorcery, thou shalt not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born, {thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's goods, thou shalt not perjure thyself, thou shalt not bear false witness,} thou shalt not speak evil, thou shalt not cherish a grudge, thou shalt not be double-minded nor double-tongued;" Didache 2:2

  4. note that Tommy J said as the Natives became more Civilized they would have more Children. Before the Natives were christianized it was there way to wait at least three yr or evenas many as 5 or 6 before having another. The reasoning for this was so that she would have to the time to care for the child properly. It is only that so called command form a fictional being to be fruitful and multiply which as brought us to a world over pop by a factor of at least 6B ppl.
    It is MHO that the Natives had it right andthat the other beleiof systems got this one all wrong

  5. I always found that relying on historical tradition as a basis for human right to be a deeply problematic practice to put it politely. Empathy and the ability to understand and accept facts about the human condition and experience outside our personal experience and upbringing tends to work better.

  6. White men over the age of 21 with either $200 in their pocket or own $200 wroth of something. To show what $200 was in 1793 A French Surveyor complained that Americans were lazy and wanted to much for pay. They would only row 10 hr/d and wanted $1 at the end of each day (that is a dollar/d for 10hr work) Where as a Frenchman would row from sunup to sundown for 10 cents a day and be happy to be paid at the end of each month.
    So $200 was 2000 hr of work or 200 days. Average wage today is about 60K. 200 days is about average work yr. So the right to vote was given only to those who had today what we would call 60K on them or own something worth 60K or about 65%. Our founding fathers would of seen the other 35% as not having the time or the brins (they not being able to aquire the 60K and so must be to dumb to have right ot vote) to set and discuss the issues of the day> I dont remember which one of them said this be they all agreed with it.

    It was not until 1835 did all White males over the age of 21 got the right to vote and even then most states still did not let just any white male over the age of 21 vote they put many restriction on it so that many of the poor had not the right to vote. It was not until much later did all White males over the age of 21 got the right to vote regardless of education or how much money they had

  7. -Hi guys whats up?
    -….yeah, im not an American, and i feel that I'm not sufficiently read on the American legal system. But my 2 cent, is the house and senate that makes laws, not the high court, right? So turn over roe v wade, have the elected politicians hammer out a new law, with being a midterm election year it should give them opportunities to make their points clear, the people vote on the candidates they like, those make laws, the president put his John Hancock on the paper, Banda bing bada boom, new law. And the us can return to more productive things. Like keeping Russia and China in check.

  8. The women of the times in question did not have the ability to know they were with child till they felt the movement of the child, now days we have tests and ultrasounds. You and your going into this topic with your easy to see bias will lead me to drop your shows!

  9. Yes, good question, how does one justify overturning Roe on the basis of tradition? It's been around for 49 years. The real issue is not tradition (nor religion, which just another part of tradition and should not dictate a question of state) but science. To assert that the foetus is just a part of the mother's body is simply to ignore the evidence.

  10. People of color and women are as opposed to abortions as much as "white men," so that statement by Sparty was a bit silly. My take is, half of the country is opposed to abortion and half of the country is in favor of abortion, I know many will say my numbers are off, but look at the results of the last presidential election and I will put money closer to 50/50, so if there is no general consensus, it gets thrown back to the states because the other gorilla in the room is taxation without representation and that gorilla will get a voice.
    Personally, I think abortion (with limits) are a necessary evil, but this whole affair would probably never have emerged if Northam hadn't endorsed post birth abortion and activists blindly running with that ball and saying, " post birth up to three years." Good luck boy's, I love your work and look forward to the flames you both have fanned.

  11. Even though a “contextual history” it seems the presenters avoid the facts of when life begins, and the intent to o the “right to life” as written by the founders. The discussion of opinions before scientific discoveries is similar to perspective about race from years ago. Finally opinion by individuals is not representative of the culture of the US since it’s founding— the basis of current judgment. Legislation versus constitutional basis would be terrible as every change in legislature could reverse previous legislation. Sad such learned presenters miss that fact.

  12. It’s funny how these current “constitutional originalist” politicians beliefs really have nothing to do with the beliefs of our founding fathers. It almost like they just put their own beliefs above all else.

  13. The Warren Court began a process that transformed the Supreme Court from a court to a board of public policy. If liberals could not achieve what they wanted through the Democratic process, they could turn to the Supreme Court to have their ideas found to be "Constitutional." By the 1990s conservatives decided they wanted "in" on this game.

    In 2000, a law magazine ranked the top ten worst Supreme Court decisions. Bush v. Gore, still fresh on people's minds, came in at number two. Number one was Roe v. Wade, which most constitutional law scholars, the majority of whom are pro-choice, agree is badly decided from a "how judicial decisions are produced" point of view.

    Part of the desire to overturn Roe v. Wade is a desire to stop having this case be the litmus test for all appointments to the court and to get the court back to being a court and not a board of public policy.

    RBG herself thought that Roe v. Wade was poorly decided and that anchoring a right to abortion in a right to privacy did not make sense, but rather that a right to abortion should be anchored in the Ninth Amendment, which makes clear that the Bill of Rights is not the be all and end all of the rights people enjoy. However, that does not necessarily mean that such other rights are constitutional. (Really, under the logic of Roe v. Wade, how can any drug be illegal if, in consultation with a doctor (wink), it is decided that consuming such a drug would be beneficial to one's health, including one's mental health?)

    I consider myself pro-life, but do not think overturning Roe v. Wade at this time helps the cause in the long-term because it just contributes to the cycle, in the culture wars, of having the party in power shove their opinions down the throats of the other side, only to have the situation reversed when the other party is in power.

    Roe itself sets viability as the deciding factor, including viability with artificial aid, and basically invites revisiting the definition of such viability as medical science improves. I think the case before the court could have been decided in such a manner and be completely consistent with Roe.

    We have dramatically reduced the percentage of people who smoke in this country and we did it without outlawing cigarettes. I think the pro-life community should study how the anti-smoking folks realized their goal.

    Not your most fair and balanced video, guys. Seems like a lot of cherry picking. Lincoln had no right to free the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation and my guess is that if, in 1863, an advanced copy of that document had been leaked, a similar presentation could have been put together by pro-slavery people looking into the historical context of slavery as an institution. Guess what conclusion they would reach?

  14. I admit it: I mainly came for the comments. Towards the end, based on Sparty's comment, I began to think that Sparty doesn't quite understand the legal opinion that was leaked. If the Court overturns Roe v. Wade, it doesn't ban abortion, but rather allows the state governments to ban abortion if they want.

  15. Regardless of "historical tradition", saying abortion is a right granted by the Constitution is absurd. Pro-Life or Pro-Choice, Roe v. Wade was a wildly flawed constitutional ruling and it's hard to argue that. Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged as much.

  16. I struggle to find the point in this episode. The final conclusions drawn on the draft opinion can still be drawn even without "historical tradition", or whatever crap this video is grasping at. Pre-Revolution America has nothing to do with it. Alito could have left it out and it would not have mattered. Saying the U.S. Constitution gives abortion as a right is simply false. I don't even believe abortion should be outlawed. I really don't. Roe v. Wade was a highly flawed decision.

    The justices don't even argue for it to be outlawed. I've watched the first 5 minutes of this video and all it talks about is whether or not it was legal or not. That's not even what the draft opinion is ultimately saying. They're just arguing for abortion to be left to the states to decide.

  17. How about this, Time ghost, do a video on Roe v. Wade, the decision, and dissect the case so we can all see how remarkably flawed it was as a decision based on the U.S. Constitution. Make sure you include all the liberals including Ruth Bader Ginsburg who acknowledged it was a flawed decision

  18. As an American law school student, the biggest issue I have with Roe v Wade is that it allowed the pro-choice movement to circumvent the democratic process, and gave America one of the most extreme pro-choice abortion policies in the world (even most nations which permit elective abortion have stricter restrictions and cut off points than allowed under Roe) while overriding the laws passed by democractically elected state legislatures/governors in the majority of states which did not allow abortion (in non-extenuating circumstances). I respect those who disagree, but I do not believe that the right to privacy extends to a right to elective abortion, the issue of abortion should be decided democratically via representative democracy at the state level. I’m glad Roe will be overturned.

  19. I am not pro-abortion and also not pro-life either. In my opinion it is a loose-loose-problem and a compromise between both extreme positions is hard to find, probably impossible…

  20. Thank you for being semi neutral on this issue . Personally I’m pro life , I think the more science comes out the more the facts seem to favor pro life . However I understand other people don’t feel this way and I respect it.

  21. Join the TimeGhost Army https://bit.ly/ICU_09_PI

    Hi Spartacus here, for once I’ll voice a personal opinion…. At the end of this episode I intimate something that is close to my heart: in a functional democracy, the democratic process must decide, not a single political party, not a minority mob, and not politically appointed clerks.

    And that is what in the end of the day the Supreme Court Justices are; appointed clerks who are the guardians of the US constitution. They are not the legislative body who makes the law.

    However, because US law is in part based in common law practice (precedence), in the absence of written law, the court becomes the arbiter of which common law practice is constitutional. If the legislature in the US would act responsibly, they would then make common law written law. This is the game that America is now facing.

    For five decades the US House and Senate have refused to do their job. The anti-abortionists in fear that they might lose their last resort to get their will through by a appointing friendly Supreme Justices, the pro abortion-rights for fear of failing to pass the law they wanted. Instead, a small group of lawyers now get to decide what the American people wanted, want, and should want.

    If you support democracy, no matter what you think of the question at hand, you should be deeply troubled by this process. For those of us who are not US citizens this should even be troubling to us – for close to 250 years the US has mostly been a forerunner, nay leader to develop more democracy. When that leader starts to falter, we are all at risk of losing our right to fair and equal representation.

    Despite the topic, stay civil, and follow our code of conduct: https://community.timeghost.tv/t/rules-of-conduct/4518

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