Only in the 21st Century

A twitter thread, simultaneously posted here.

No, we’re not going to the 17th century for women. This fuckery on abortion is only possible in the 21st century.

In the 17th century, you weren’t officially pregnant until quickening (aka: when the baby grows combat boots and starts tap-dancing on your bladder.)

Suppressed menses, otoh?

The very concept of regular periods is itself fairly modern. When you live in a world where a good agricultural year was when the farm produced 8 calories for every calorie expended on the crop? And when a starving year was 3 calories per?
Periods might dry up in late spring/summer.

(Note: The starving time was usually spring/summer, after last harvest is used up, but before the next one is ready to eat. If your community was already starving at your winter solstice? Your community had been fucked for at least a couple years.)

There were a lot of ways to be nauseated in the 1600s — everything from polluted water to spoiled food to infectious disease. And the correlation most people drew was not, “no period + nausea = preggers”, it was “no period = nausea + sick.” Suppressed menses made you sick.

Detecting early pregnancy is very much an double invention of the 20th century — the urine test and the ultrasound. We didn’t even know pregnancy was 40 weeks long until the early 20th century.
Hell, we didn’t even totally know how pregnancy happened until 1875.

If you dissect a dead woman, you can find an ovary, but not an egg, because they have to ripen in the ovary, then explode themselves out. And we couldn’t see sperm cells at all until the end of the 19th century.

Seriously, we know now that if you have a regular period, you can pretty reliably figure out when it’s possible to get pregnant, but that’s a 1930 invention! Connecting PIV sex and babies is actually harder than it looks, because most of the time, nothing happens but a good time.

And since there are so many reasons why someone might miss a period, from sickness and stress to malnutrition to simply not being regular? Dealing with suppressed menses was just not that big of a deal. You’re sick because you haven’t had a period. Let’s handle that.

That doesn’t mean we should be USING any of the recipes for suppressed menses. They’re all pretty toxic, and mostly worked by poisoning the body enough to make pregnancy too big of a risk, but not so poisoned that you die right now.

And it’s not like early miscarriages are all that different from a period. A typical period is 30-90 ml of blood; an early miscarriage is about 70-100 ml. A couple of extra teaspoons won’t even register for most people.

That’s why quickening was the only standard the 17th century COULD use. You could suspect you might be pregnant, especially if you’d already done it once, but you wouldn’t know until the kid kicked you. And even then… you might not be sure til labor started.

Because not being able to image inside the body? Meant it was not terribly hard to mistake a tumor for a pregnancy, either. Especially a fast, aggressive ovarian or uterine tumor. These, alas, are not 20th century inventions.

The “fetal heartbeat” itself is a VERY recent discovery — product of more powerful and routine TRANS-VAGINAL ultrasounds — and also not a good indicator of anything. Because the “fetal heartbeat” is what happens when you get about 50 cardiac cells together. They sync up.

You can make the equivalent of a fetal heartbeat in a petri dish, with cells you grew on agar from a chicken heart. This used to be a fairly common science project. Cardiac cells are not difficult to grow, and just because they can keep a beat doesn’t mean that’s a viable pregnancy.

You get the cardiac streak well before a spine, a nervous system, a chest wall, the brain. It’s really not that important.
And it’s not really even a heartbeat. It’s a flutter. Take a lentil, draw a pencil line on it. The cardiac streak would find that pencil line roomy.

So let’s be clear: the 17th century was not great for human beings. It wasn’t great for the ones with uteruses. But it’s better than what the GOP wants.

Because we do have the technology to piss-test everyone we even suspect of being pregnant. We have the imaging to determine if that urine test is a chemical pregnancy or at least implanted enough to grow cells with rhythm. And we have people who think 1/20th of 6×10−8 grams of hCG and 50 cells is important.

This technology makes us LESS FREE than women who were legally property from the moment of their birth until the day they were widowed. (Not all women were enslaved, but all women in the European sphere were property.)

They at least had a window where they could evaluate themselves and their circumstances. Our tech means we won’t have that window at all.

This is a 21st century creation, not 17th. Or 18th. Or 19th.