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  • The practice of abortion—the termination of a pregnancy—exists throughout recorded history. Various methods have been used to perform or attempt an abortion, including the administration of abortifacient herbs, the use of sharpened implements, the application of abdominal pressure and other techniques. The sole mention of the practice in the Bible is, in fact, an herbal recipe for inducing abortion. 

    In 19th-century England, after it was found that a spike in miscarriages was the result of lead poisoning caused by the metal pipes that fed the water supply, women began using diachylon, a substance with a high concentration of lead, to induce miscarriage. Despite bans on both sides of the Atlantic, women found ways to end unwanted pregnancies. The 20th century saw technological advances, such as manual vacuum aspiration, allowing even the most modest facilities to provide safe abortion care. In this issue of Conscience, we take a look at what’s next for abortion care in the decades ahead. 

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