An Analysis of ?When Abortion Was a Crime: Reproduction and the Economy in the Great Depression? Amber Hauck Dr. Meija WRA 140, Michigan State University 18 February 2009 An Analysis of ?When Abortion Was a Crime: Reproduction and the Economy in the Great Depression? Abortion rates vary according to economic success. When women have no money to support their child, they turn to abortion instead. ?When Abortion Was a Crime: Reproduction and the Economy in the Great Depression? by Leslie J. Reagan is set during the Great Depression. The Great Depression was an economic crisis that occurred during the 1930?s in the United States. The stock market crashed, and jobs vanished from virtually all families in the country. With no work, and therefore no steady income, women who conceived a child rarely had no other ?choice? but to abort the baby. The only problem was, abortion was illegal at the time. Many abortions where still however performed by physicians and midwifes, but others were self-induced and sometimes produced harmful consequences to the women. In her essay, Reagan discusses research done by The Kinsey Institute for Sex Research and the results of their surveys of the reproductive practice of the women of this time. By looking at the abortion rates of different classes, races, religions, and ages of women during the Great Depression, Reagan shows that economic status provides an impact on the abortion rates of the time. The classes of women during the 1930?s were still divided even though the economic status of the United States was suffering. Women?s social class depended most on their marital status and their employment. Many married women lost their jobs due to the view of employers that they had husbands to support them, consequently causing many couples to postpone marriage until after the Depression. ?Medical studies and sex surveys demonstrated that women of every social strata turned to abortion in greater numbers during the Depression? (Reagan 424). Middle- and upper-class women tended to receive abortions from a physician or a midwife. In fact, ?Physicians performed 84 percent of the abortions reported by the white, urban women to Kinsey researchers? (Reagan 425). Usually, these professionally performed abortions resulted in no medical consequence. On the contrary, women of low income relied mainly on self-induced abortions. ?According to the Kinsey study on abortion, 30 percent of the lower-income and black women reported self-inducing their abortions? (Reagan 425). These self-induced abortions usually compromised the safety of the women and resulted in the need for emergency medical care. In fact, the Cook County Hospital reported astounding statistics on their care of postabortion patients. ??One woman a day and several hundred women a year entered the hospital because of postabortion complications? (Reagan 425). In conclusion, the difference in abortion between the classes did not lie in the amount of women turning to abortion, but in the way the women proceeded with the abortion. The difference in abortion between black and white women also did not lie in the amount of women turning to abortion during the Depression, but instead lies in the way women coped with pregnancy outside of marriage. White women who conceived outside of marriage usually were forced to take compulsory measures to either abort the baby or to proceed with the marriage. Black women who got pregnant outside of marriage, however, were more accepted within their community. Therefore, unmarried black women turned to abortion less often than unmarried white women, but by a minuscule amount. ?A study of working-class women in New York in the 1930?s found almost identical abortion rates among Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant women? (Reagan 425). Although the abortion rates were almost the same, the differences between women in these religions can be found in their reproductive patterns. Most Catholic and Jewish women tended to have babies earlier in their marriage, and resorted to abortion as they got older. Protestants, however, were found to have their earlier pregnancies aborted, and bore children later in life. Abortion rates also varied based on how religious a woman tended to be. ?The Kinsey Report found for both married and unmarried white women, the more devout the woman, the less likely she was to have an abortion; the more religiously ?inactive? a woman, the more likely she was to have an abortion? (Reagan 425). Women during the Great Depression tended to want to delay their child bearing until a later age. The age range of those patients getting abortions reflects this desire. ?The ages of the women having abortions in this sample ranged from eighteen to forty-eight years?.Their average age was twenty-seven years, but over half were under twenty-five? (Reagan 427). The average age of abortions, twenty-seven years old, was a normal child bearing age before the Great Depression hit. It may be inferred that because of the economic status, women of child bearing age did not want to bear a child not only because they were unmarried (as many of the patients proved to be married) but because of the economic suffering of the time. Reagan?s article, ?When Abortion Was a Crime: Reproduction and the Economy in the Great Depression?, explores the effects of economic status on abortion rates. During the Great Depression, economic times were at a strikingly low standard, and abortion rates rose indefinitely, even though abortion was prohibited. The different ages, religions, races, and classes of women caused differences in abortion, but the rise of abortion rates was common among all types of women. The need of income to take care of another child was missing, and therefore women did not want to bear any more children, or in some cases, no children at all. Physicians would perform abortions secretly, while other women would just abort the fetus themselves. Many people in today?s society think abortion is wrong, and should be illegal once again. But in tough economic times, would they still feel the same? Works Cited Reagan, Leslie J. ?When Abortion Was a Crime: Reproduction and the Economy in the Great Depression? Women?s America: Refocusing the Past. 6th ed. Ed. Kerber, Linda K. Oxford, NY: Oxford.
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