Criminalization Of Abortion

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The classification of abortion as deviant and a crime made women subject to both punitive and social punishment. Women were subject to abortion laws due to decisions made within a patriarchal society that did not include the opinions of women, especially on political topics (Sauer 1974). Abortion laws were created by elite men, physicians and lawmakers, whose positions gave them the ability to make decisions that controlled the actions of others as well as impact public opinion (Reagan 1996). Although women were targeted by the criminalization of abortion, they had no power to fight against criminalization through legislation or meaningful social movements. Not only did women lack political power, but they were also invalidated by voicing opinions…show more content…
This stigmatization stemmed from patriarchal ideas of purity that believed women should be “delicate, spiritual and dedicated to the home” (Beisel & Kay 2004). Abortions not only went against Victorian ideals of female sanctity concerning sexual matters, but abortion also disobeyed the norms of motherhood that forced women to become mothers (Reagan 1996). Abortions became public knowledge due to the form of punishment given to women who had abortions. The punishment was not fines or jail sentences, but instead a humiliating interrogation about sexual matters with male officials (Reagan 1996). These interrogations became public knowledge once the interrogation was complete and the process of stigmatization and invalidation began immediately (Fadiman 1992). Up until the mid-20th Century, these interrogations would often be done on women’s death beds because women would not be given medical care until they gave up the information that authorities wanted (Fadiman 1992). Even after this practice ended, as late as the 1960’s, women who had serious injuries from their abortions often refused to tell hospital staff the real reason for their injuries out of fear that they would be turned in to the police (Fadiman 1992). Women were so disrespected by legal authorities that the state felt it to be justified that women who received abortions could face death for their actions if they did not give in to the power of their authority. The state harbored the power to force women to make the choice between stigmatization, consisting of the death of the self, and actual death. This power was used to scare women out of receiving abortions as well as scaring them out of receiving help if their abortions caused them harm. The power held by the state and the greater society were utilized by men with
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