Demonizing Abortion in America

Although abortion had been an established and largely accepted practice within American society for much of its history, by the 1840s a growing chorus of voices had arisen calling for its criminalization. Much of the public outcry focused on the figure of Madame Restell, an abortion provider in New York City who advertised her services openly in newspapers like the New York Herald and dispensed them from her fashionable three-story brownstone mansion at the corner of 5th Avenue and 52nd Street. Restell’s success and public visibility—she was reported to ride around town in a luxurious four-horse carriage—made her an easy target for anti-abortion campaigners and provided them with a frame on which to hang the stereotype of the evil female abortionist. In the 1850s, Restell attracted the attention of the recently formed American Medical Society and became the object of its campaign, led by Dr. Horatio Storer, to end abortion in America.