It seems every week one story in the news dominates all others. Last week it was about the birth of Prince Harry's son. That was a happy story.
This week, the news turned much darker as we heard that Alabama had passed the strictest abortion law of all time.
Even Alabamians didn't like it, but still were eager to see it become state law, not because they hoped it would criminalize abortion even in the case of rape or incest, but because they wanted it to get to the Supreme Court, who might overturn Roe vs Wade.
I believe personally that terminating a pregnancy is a very personal, painful, and private decision, not to be made by a group of old men who have never experienced having to make such a decision themselves, but I understand how some people might disagree with me. I decided to look back at how previous generations felt about this. I was in for a shock!
In a Leavenworth Times newspaper in 1850, there appeared an ad for Sir James Clarke's “female pills,” saying they were “ideal for bringing on periods and were particularly suited to married ladies.”
The New York Times featured an ad by a Madam Costello, who claimed to be a “female physician” who helped women who wished to be treated for “obstruction of the monthly period.”  
These kind of ads were in plain sight, right next to those for real estate or hair tonic and readers never raised an eyebrow.
Back then pregnancy was dangerous and it was estimated that one out of every four women had an abortion.
Not only did pregnancy often result in death for mother or baby or both, but to be pregnant out of wedlock meant that any woman without a husband would be ostracized from her community and most likely from her family.
Abortions, therefore, were common. Vendors openly advertised their willingness to perform them, and in private, women shared information about preventing pregnancy or how to induce a miscarriage.
This all changed when doctors decided that abortions should be only their business and began to campaign to criminalize abortion.
It had been acceptable previously because the folk wisdom was that the human body was a place of equilibrium and anything that upset that delicate balance was unnatural.
Pregnancy was considered as throwing the body out of balance, so it was seen as a problem that should be remedied.
Drugs, herbal remedies and even folk practices such as lying in bed surrounded by hot bricks were common and acceptable practices.
If these things didn't work, it was time to see a woman who claimed to be a physician but actually had no medical training.
Trained physicians had always been suspicious of midwives. When the American Medical Association formed in 1857, members began to agitate making the midwives work illegal.
The man who is often called the Father of Obstetrics, Horatio Storer, was the most vociferous.
He believed that women were put on this earth to be wives and mothers and to disrupt motherhood was tantamount to murder.  
The AMA  also made a concerted effort to prevent women from becoming obstetricians.
In 1873 the  Comstock Law was passed. It banned publication of any information about birth control.
It wasn't long  afterwards that anti-abortion laws followed.  
Even though it was now illegal, Americans did not stop getting abortions. They simply went underground and nothing had really changed until 1973, when the Supreme Court decided that laws criminalizing abortions were illegal.
Ever since that ruling, there has been agitation to get the ruling overturned.
Now, with a very different political make-up on the court, Alabama has decided the time is right. Stay tuned. It will be a wild and divisive ride!