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During the 17th-century Salem witch hunt, some of the women may have been brought to trial, at least in part, because the county sheriff profited from the seizure of their property.

The debate over abortion, too, has long been tied to political as well as medical and ethical questions. The first anti-abortion statutes in America were passed in the 1820s, and by the late 1820s most states had made abortion illegal. In the 1960s, some states liberalized or repealed anti-abortion laws and in 1973 the Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, interpreted the right to privacy to include a woman’s decision to choose an abortion. Since then, many states have limited abortions, for example by adding requirements for parental involvement, mandatory waiting periods, and counseling.

Underlying many debates about women’s health, past and present, have always been questions about freedom and equality. Technology changes, however, and with it the questions under debate. Recently Virginia passed a law requiring women get an ultrasound before an abortion. Is this an infringement of a woman’s freedom or a protection of a fetus’ equal rights?

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I would not dream of setting foot in Virginia, a place of stupid legislation.


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