That time Benjamin Franklin published a book on DIY abortions

If you are at all engaged in the abortion debate, you're already aware that every anti-choice argument is inherently hollow. Even if the person making the argument thinks they're using it in good faith, it's only because they've been conned by a cynical rhetoric machine. Consider how the Catholic Church once lead the anti-abortion charge — despite the fact that Catholic Priests were once the ones who performed abortions, which were considered minor sins, especially when compared to unwed fornication.

Or, more recently, in Justice Alito's draft opinion threatening to overturn Roe v. Wade, a decision which he based in part on the claim that — in his words — "a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation's history and traditions."

But as Slate points out, this simply isn't true. In fact, none other than Benjamin Franklin used his famous printing press to spread the word about how to perform a safe DIY abortion — sorry, a "Misfortune" — at home, using common herbal remedies:

The year was 1748, the place was Philadelphia, and the book was The Instructor, a popular British manual for everything from arithmetic to letter-writing to caring for horses' hooves. Benjamin Franklin had set himself to adapting it for the American colonies.

Though Franklin already had a long and successful career by this point, he needed to find a way to convince colonial book-buyers—who for the most part didn't even formally study arithmetic—that his version of George Fisher's textbook was worth the investment. Franklin made all sorts of changes throughout the book, from place names to inserting colonial histories, but he made one really big change: adding John Tennent's The Poor Planter's Physician to the end. Tennent was a Virginia doctor whose medical pamphlet had first appeared in 1734.* By appending it to The Instructor (replacing a treatise on farriery) Franklin hoped to distinguish the book from its London ancestor. Franklin advertised that his edition was "the whole better adapted to these American Colonies, than any other book of the like kind." In the preface he goes on to specifically mention his swapping out of sections, insisting that "in the British Edition of this Book, there were many Things of little or no Use in these Parts of the World: In this Edition those Things are omitted, and in their Room many other Matters inserted, more immediately useful to us Americans." One of those useful "Matters" was a how-to on at-home abortion, made available to anyone who wanted a book that could teach the ABCs and 123s.

Ben Franklin Put an Abortion Recipe in His Math Textbook [Molly Farrell / Slate]

Image: GPA Photo Archive / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)