Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 4021
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Butler , Sara M.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Abortion by Assault: Violence against Pregnant Women in Thirteenth and Fourteenth- Century England
  • Source: Journal of Women's History 17, 4 ( 2005): Pages 9 - 31.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): Abortion Courts of Law, Royal Crime and Criminals Jury Law Medicine Murder Pregnancy Violence Wife Abuse
  • Award Note:
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 13- 14
  • Primary Evidence:
  • Illustrations:
  • Table:
  • Abstract: According to medieval common law, assault against a pregnant woman causing miscarriage after the first trimester was homicide. Some scholars have argued, however, that in practice English jurors refused to acknowledge assaults of this nature as homicide. The underlying argument is that because abortion by assault is a crime against women, male jurors were loath to impose the death penalty. A reexamination of the material notes that while conviction rates for assault on pregnant women were low, the English believed such assaults were felonies. Moreover, the role played by husbands as plaintiffs makes it clear that this was not merely a women's issue. Abortion by assault was never an easy judgment for jurors to deliver. In particular, the medical expertise required to pass judgment on such a case presented jurors with difficulties that may have prevented conviction of abortion by assault in many cases.
  • Author's Affiliation: Loyola University, New Orleans
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2005.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 10427961