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The Victorian Clinic

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Tucked away in The Guardian supplement G2 this week was a fascinating article on how the media has long sensationalised abortion. The writer, Kate Manning, argued that “Victorian coverage set the tone” and looked at the ways in which the nineteenth-century press (like some of its modern-day counterparts) demonised abortion and abortionists – even those who seemed to have provided relatively safe and effective care.

Manning’s article encouraged me to delve a little further into the history of nineteenth-century abortions. It’s one of those topics that fascinates me precisely because it’s been so long obscured from the pages of popular history and literature.

On the face of it, abortions make for grisly research matter, not least because of the methods available to women in the nineteenth century – which can seem particularly barbaric and gruesome to modern readers, used to a more clinical and humane approach. In the early 1880s…

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