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It was the titillating trial and salacious scandal of 1820s Connecticut that has ramifications that resonate today. A love affair between an older magnetic preacher and a young woman that led to pregnancy, botched attempts to end it and then a stillbirth – all amid a broken promise to marry.
The state wanted to throw the book at Ammi Rogers, a controversial reverend, but there were no laws banning abortion in 1820. Rogers, who spent the rest of his life proclaiming his innocence, was instead convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to two years in prison.
Asenath - Smith - Granddaughter - Congregants - Medicine
He impregnated 21-year-old Asenath Smith, the granddaughter of one of his congregants. When she fell pregnant, he first gave her a medicine to end the baby's life but when that did not work, used a 'tool' to end the pregnancy.
Smith's family ended up calling a doctor because she was in extreme pain. She delivered a still born not long afterwards.
Furor - Court - Case - Connecticut - Nation
The furor over the court case pushed Connecticut to pass the nation's first abortion law the next year, in 1821. Other states followed suit and by the end of the 19th Century, 49 states had some type of law regulating abortion, with Kentucky passing legislation in 1910.
A through line can be drawn from that court case and subsequent legislation in 1821 to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade to the signing Wednesday of one of the nation's most restrictive abortion laws in Alabama.
Laws - Years - Aim - Women - Abortions
While the two laws are separated by nearly 200 years, their aim is the same: punish those that provide women with abortions. In the 1820s, a women, like Asenath Smith, Rogers' lover, would have been given some sort of medicine to get rid of the pregnancy. Now, those who provide abortions could be sentenced anywhere from 10 years...
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Measuring his life out one teaspoon at a time.