Self-Interest, Obligation, and Anxiety: Abortion Ethics in Colonial New England

Date
2023-12-06
Authors
Treat, Madelyn
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Abstract

This thesis considers how colonial Americans in late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century New England perceived and regulated abortion. After reviewing medical, legal, and religious texts from the time, I propose that colonial authorities generally did not view abortion as an issue, except when it was perceived as an attempt to hide sexual immorality. Even so, records of court cases involving abortion show that colonists hoped to keep instances of abortion from the attention of these authorities. This tension provides insight into colonial anxieties regarding self-interest, communal obligations, and sin.

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Keywords
Abortion, Sexual Ethics, Reproductive Ethics, Sex Crimes, Puritans, Colonial New England, Social Life and Customs, History, 17th century, 18th century
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