Abortion was historically illegal in England

Early American abortion law was based on British law. Abortion was illegal in England before the time of the colonies. Here is the abortion law 1290s England:

“He, too, in strictness is a homicide who has pressed upon a pregnant woman or has given her poison or has struck her in order to procure an abortion… if the foetus was already formed and quickened… A woman also commits homicide if, by a potion or the like, she destroys a quickened child in her womb.”

Fleta (c. 1290) vol. 2, Book 1, Ch. 23 Publications of the Selden Society (London: 1955 ed. and transl. HG Richardson and GO Sayles) vol. 72, 60

At this time, scientists didn’t know that life began at conception. They had not yet identified the reality of the sperm and egg, or known how they combine to create life. Therefore, both the scientific community and the public believed that life began when the baby started to move- quickening, when the woman felt the baby’s movements. We now know that preborn babies move long before the woman can feel them moving.

This laws is significant though, because it shows that British law  protected preborn babies as soon as it was believed they had independent life. Now that we know more about the beginning of life at conception, to follow the spirit of the law, abortion would be illegal.

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Author: Sarah

Sarah Terzo is a writer for Live Action and a member of the board of The Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians and Consistent Life. She lives in NJ.

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