Artifact Title: Suppression of the Courses

Medium: Text

Author: Benjamin Franklin

Work Title: The American instructor: or, Young man's best companion

Publisher: New-York: Printed and sold by H. Gaine, at the Bible and Crown, in Hanover-Square

Year: 1770

Page in Image: 365

Image Credit: Mikayla Collins

TERA Curator: Elonda Clay

Suppression of the Courses

Justice Alito’s 2022 leaked opinion draft on abortion in the United States argues against technologies of contraception and abortion in the name of “personhood” and “originalism”. The meaning of Originalism deployed in Justice Alito’s draft is the idea that the Constitution has a fixed meaning; it doesn’t change. Despite this, technologies of contraception and abortion have been understood in diverse ways historically. In this artifact, Benjamin Franklin’s advice for “suppression of the courses” (at-home abortions) was directed toward white unmarried pregnant women and perhaps the men who impregnated them. The situation for enslaved women of African descent during this time was far different. As these women were signified socially as property and their children as product, such advice would have seemed unnecessary. These women also found their own ways to enact reproductive resistance. Herbal remedies to terminate pregnancies, extended breastfeeding, and teas to induce menstrual cycles were all a means for enslaved women to exercise agency over their bodies by controlling their ability to be impregnated. Infanticide was also used, although enslaved women were savagely beaten for doing so, since this was viewed as destruction of slavers’ property.