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- May 2022
What did Franklin himself think about abortions? In 1728 during his early years as a printer, he generated controversy over something he would end up doing himself. According to “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” by Walter Isaacson, he “manufactured” an abortion debate, largely because he wanted to crush a rival, but his own opinions may not have been too strong about it. Franklin wrote a series of anonymous letters for another paper to draw attention away from Samuel Keimer’s paper: The first two pieces were attacks on poor Keimer, who was serializing entries from an encyclopedia. His initial installment included, innocently enough, an entry on abortion. Franklin pounced. Using the pen names “Martha Careful” and “Celia Shortface,” he wrote letters to Bradford’s paper feigning shock and indignation at Keimer’s offense. As Miss Careful threatened, “If he proceeds farther to expose the secrets of our sex in that audacious manner [women would] run the hazard of taking him by the beard in the next place we meet him.” Thus Franklin manufactured the first recorded abortion debate in America, not because he had any strong feelings on the issue, but because he knew it would help sell newspapers.
Benjamin Franklin manufactured the first recorded abortion debate in America to help sell his newspapers and to crush a rival.