restricted access Abortion in the Early American Press: Secular and Catholic Approaches to the Pre-Born Child

When discussing abortion, the contemporary press commonly focuses on the political and reproductive-rights aspects of the issue, ignoring the person-hood of the unborn child. Many logically assume the dehumanization of the unborn child began with the 1973 Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion. It is equally logical to assume that before 1973, when most forms of abortion were crimes, the press and governments acknowledged and sympathized with the unborn child victim. However, newspapers, secular and Catholic, from the early American period until the dawn of the Civil War, differ markedly in their approach to the unborn. The secular media largely failed to acknowledge the personhood of the unborn, even as news reports about murders, rapes, and robberies customarily acknowledged that those crimes had victims. The early Catholic press, however, demonstrated more recognition of the unborn children aided by theological developments, including the teaching on the ensoulment of the unborn from the time of conception.