The Criminalization of Abortion in the West


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Table of Contents

Introduction Chapter 1. The Earliest Proponents of Criminalization The Scholastic Origins of Criminal Abortion Forms of Sentencing in Medieval Jurisprudence Crimen in "An Age without Lawyers" (500-1050) Chapter 2. Early Venues of Criminalization Crimen in Sacramental Confession Judicial Crimen in the Ecclesiastical Courts Public Penitential Crimen Royal Jurisdiction in Thirteenth-Century England Chapter 3. Chief Agents of Criminalization Legislation versus Juristic Communis Opinio Communis Opinio and Peer Dissent Systematic Law before the Rise of the Modern State Chapter 4. Principal Arguments in Favor of Criminalization Successive Animation and Creatianism Legal and Theological Assessments of Therapeutic Abortion The Demise of Late Medieval Embryology Chapter 5. Objections to Criminalization Customary Indifference North and East of the River Rhine Rejection in the Royal Courts of England (1327-1557) 6. Abortion Experts and Expertise Evidence of Midwifery Medical Embryology and Abortion Discourse Abortifacient Prescriptions Chapter 7. Abortion in the Criminal Courts of the Ius Commune Criminal Accusationes and Inquisitiones The Rules and Safeguards of Ordinary Inquisitiones Extraordinary Inquisitiones Chapter 8. Forms of Punishment in the Criminal Courts of the Ius Commune Statutory and Customary Specifications Substitute Penalties Adjustment Out of Court Chapter 9. The Frequency of Criminal Prosecutions Viable Statistical Queries Geography and Patterns of Record Keeping A Triad of Typical Cases Bibliography Index

About the Author

Wolfgang P. Muller is Professor of History at Fordham University. He is the author of Huguccio: The Life, Works, and Thought of a Twelfth-Century Jurist and coeditor of MedievalChurch Law and the Origins of the Western Legal Tradition.


"Muller traces the tortuous path of the treatment of abortion as a public crime (felony) between the late 12th and early 16th centuries... He succeeds in demonstrating the shift in the settlement of disputes from the pre-12th-century local control of justice depending on local power and the strength of family status to a more public hearing under the control of centralizing authorities... Added to these public tribunals to investigate abortion as a crime was the widespread public attitude that regarded it as no more than a sin, if that, subject to confession to a priest and the performance of penance."-Choice (February 2013) "The Criminalization of Abortion in the West examines the processes which led to the voluntary killing of a human fetus becoming a crime, as opposed to a sin or a wrong compensable by a money payment...This book should be regarded as essential reading for those studying the interface between law and medicine in medieval Europe, to legal historians and social historians."-Gwen Seabourne,Social History of Medicine (August 2013) "[T]he argumentation is intricate. To put it differently, this reader found that the importance of Criminalization rose to the surface upon a second reading. For, this is an important book, which will interest historians across the sub-disciplinary spectrum and not only late medievalists. It provides a stimulating account of the theoretical and practical development of medieval criminal justice and will become a sine qua non in the history of abortion."-Zubin Mistry, The Mediaeval Journal (June 2014) "In The Criminalization of Abortion in the West, Wolfgang P. Muller addresses a question of broad modern interest and dispute. This is the definitive book on the subject of the history of the criminalization of abortion in the Western world and also a brilliant account of the history of the invention of criminalization itself-that is, early criminal law-in the Western legal tradition."-Edward Peters, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania, author ofInquisition "Wolfgang P. Muller presents a well-informed, comprehensive account of the process that led to the classification of abortion of a human fetus as a species of homicide punishable by severe penalties up to and including execution of convicted perpetrators. The Criminalization of Abortion in the West is a substantial contribution to our knowledge about a critical facet of the history of abortion."-James A. Brundage, Ahmanson-Murphy Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History and Law, University of Kansas, author of The Medieval Origins of the Legal Profession: Canonists, Civilians, and Courts

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