How did illegal abortions spur the push for medical licensing in the 19th Century?


New York Governor John T. Hoffman

In 1872, American physicians were not licensed anywhere in the United States. Medicine was completely unregulated and anyone could claim to be a physician. Most American physicians could be classified as either a regulars, homeopaths or eclectics. These three medical sects were in brutal competition with each other. Regulars were part of medical sect that could trace its roots to ancient Rome. Homeopaths and eclectics were part of medical sects that had been founded in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The ineffectiveness of Regular medical practice encouraged people to explore new medical ideas that led to the creation for distinct medical sects. These new medical groups found willing patients who were understandably skeptical of traditional medicine.

These three sects were operating in an environment unencumbered by any meaningful regulation. Over the next thirty years, that would change dramatically. While regular physicians were predisposed to advocating for some type of medical licensing, state legislatures had so far expressed little interest in creating any medical licensing. Up until that point nothing had occurred to galvanize widespread support for medical licensing until the summer of 1872.

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