Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate September 2001

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"Many who can readily envision the concrete humanity of a fetus, who hold its picture high and weep, barely see the woman who carries it in her human plight."1 These words, spoken by author, Laurence H. Tribe, writer of Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes, summarize the feelings that many people, who believe in a woman's right of choice, have.2 Abortion has been a difficult subject for a very long time. Most abortion laws derived from positions in the Roman Catholic Church. Before medical technology was developed as it is today, women did not know they were pregnant until around the fifth month of her pregnancy, when she could feel the baby's movements. Catholics believed that God formed the baby's soul at this time. They called this period "quickening".

Between the years of 450 and 1450, abortion was only allowed before quickening.

After abortion was made illegal, the Catholic Church continued to allow it as long as the procedure took place before quickening.

The only time abortion was allowed after this period of quickening was if it were to save the woman's life. Some Catholic theologists agreed that abortion should be allowed in cases of rape and in cases where the woman was single and her family would literally kill her. This may sound ludicris now, but back then it was a dramatic disgrace if a woman were to become pregnant before marriage and the family cared about their appearance and their status in society much more than it is worried about today.

In 1854, there was a dramatic change in church policy. Many leaders of the church began to realize the "sacredness" of pregnancy after putting more thought into the innocent contraception of Mary. In 1931, the church ruled that abortion was banned under any circumstance. The punishment for abortion...