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Beisel, Nicola, and Tamara Kay. “Abortion, Race, and Gender in Nineteenth-Century America.” American Sociological Review 69, no. 4 (August 2004): 498–518.


In this article Beisel and Kay demonstrate that race, gender and social class intersected during the nineteenth century as physicians and suffragist understood the meanings of, and policies regarding abortion. The authors argue that the politics of abortion were impacted by both racial and gender politics and those who were Anglo Saxon had control of the state and were thus dominant. Beisel and Kay, both historians, note that physicians argued abortion should be made illegal because society would be damaged without motherhood. Especially since Anglo-Saxon women were needed to reproduce the race and its nation. Suffragists argued that women aborted pregnancies because their husbands controlled and abused their bodies as well as sexuality. They believed it was critical for women to decide whether or not they wanted to produce children. This richly-sourced journal article is useful for its historical perspective. Data included consist of primary documents written by nineteenth-century physicians and women’s rights advocates. The publications from physicians are of two sorts: polemical books and articles written for the general public, and articles about abortion written for fellow physicians.


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Intersectionality   Abortion   History   Population control