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The History of Personhood in the Abortion Debate / Brianna Muir


It's not just a gender issue, it becomes a really racialized issue in a lot of regards as well... With the code of Hammurabi we start to see like, even in the earliest law codes, we see that the choice to have a child or not have a child doesn't fall to the woman, it falls to the man. And we see that throughout ancient Greece. And where it gets really interesting is that when Greece and especially in Rome, we don't start to see any kind of real crackdowns on abortion until the leaders of these nations start getting worried about demographic concerns. So for example, in Ancient Rome we don't really see crackdowns until the 3rd century, under Emperor Caracalla and they specifically started having these crackdowns because Rome started having these concerns about outside empires. And the fact that Roman women weren't having enough Roman babies...It's kind of that idea of controlling women to have babies and specifically controlling citizen women to have more citizen babies.

Brianna Muir wrote the Sapiens article, "An Archaeology of Personhood and Abortion: Opinions about fetal personhood and abortion have fluctuated enormously throughout history and differ in surprising ways between cultures."

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Brianna Muir

Brianna is a master’s student in biological anthropology at the University of Central Florida. As an emerging bioarchaeologist, she is interested in how integrative approaches can be used to address questions of personhood, identity, and agency in the past. In particular, she investigates how these factors may have shaped and influenced a person’s lived experiences. Muir received her B.A. from the Australian National University in 2019 and has undertaken fieldwork and research in the Philippines, Vanuatu, and Australia.


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