Abortion, rather than contraception, was the primary form of birth control during the antebellum and Civil War era. In the Civil War era it is estimated that there was one abortion for every five live births. William Buchan's Domestic Medicine contained prescriptions for bringing on delayed menstrual periods, which would also produce an abortion if the woman happened to be pregnant. The book prescribed heavy doses of purgatives that created violent cramps, powerful douches, violent exercise, raising great weights and falling down.
By the early 1860's most states had laws restricting abortion, but these laws were directed at unqualified abortionists and were intended to protect women. Procuring an abortion was not a crime in South Carolina and was illegal in Massachusetts only after the fetus had "stirred". Most Americans of this period did not regard abortion as a crime until the fetus had "quickened" (begun to move perceptibly in the womb). According to the prevailing view of the time, the fetus had no soul before quickening and had not demonstrated its independent existence through movement. Until quickening, the fetus was regarded as an extraneous part of the pregnant woman that could be removed without ethical constraint.
A brief look at love, sex, and marriage in the Civil War. The book covers courtship, marriage, birth control and pregnancy, divorce, slavery and the impact of the war on social customs.
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