Does the practice of abortion date back thousands of years?

Thursday, May 5, 2022
By Austin Tannenbaum

Historical records show that abortions have been written about and performed for thousands of years.

Citing the textbook "Human Reproductive Biology," ScienceDirect writes, "A work by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, 4,600 years ago, contained a recipe to induce abortion using mercury."

Ancient Egyptians also used abortion techniques, which were documented in the "Ebers Papyrus," a medical book written around 1550 B.C.E.

Abortions were recognized in ancient Greece and Rome. The Greek physician Dioscorides wrote about them in "De materia medica," a book about herbal medicine, as did Roman author Pliny the Elder in his encyclopedia "The Natural History."

In Medieval times, monasteries, which doubled as infirmaries, performed abortions. The German Catholic nun Hildegard von Bingen wrote about emmenagogues (menstruation stimulators) and abortifacients (abortion inducers) in her medical texts "Physica" and "Causae et Curae."

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