Sara Margaret Butler deposited “Abortion by Assault: Violence against Pregnant Women in Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-century England.” in the group Legal history on Humanities Commons 2 years, 8 months ago
According to medieval common law, assault against a pregnant woman causing miscarriage after the fi rst 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.