ONTD Political

Before and after Roe v. Wade

9:53 am - 01/22/2013

(CNN) -- Tuesday marks the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. In a 7-2 ruling on January 22, 1973, the justices declared laws prohibiting abortion violated a woman's constitutional right to privacy. They also said states could regulate abortion procedures in the interest of a woman's health or in protecting a potential human life starting at the end of the pregnancy's first trimester.

Abortion was legal under common law in the United States leading up to the 19th century, says Leslie Reagan, professor of history and law at the University of Illinois and author of "When Abortion was a Crime." Early laws only prohibited the use of toxic substances to cause miscarriages after "quickening," or when a woman feels her child move -- usually four or five months into the pregnancy.

"That was the moral point where people understood there was a life," Reagan says.

Since then, the definition of life has been debated many times over, but Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land.

Learn more about the events leading up to this historic decision, and what's happened in the four decades since the ruling:

1821: Connecticut passes the first law in the United States to restrict abortion. It prohibits the use of a toxic substance to cause a miscarriage after "quickening." A number of other states follow.

1873: Anthony Comstock, head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, lobbies to pass the Comstock Law, a federal law banning the selling or distributing of materials related to contraception and abortion.

A migrant family prays before their noonday meal Oklahoma during the Great Depression.

1930s: The number of abortions increases significantly during the Great Depression. "The Depression years make vivid the relationship between economics and reproduction," Reagan writes. "Married women with children found it impossible to bear the expense of another, and unmarried women could not afford to marry."

The dangerous practice of unregulated abortions led to a high U.S. maternal mortality rate, Reagan says. In her book, she cites a study done in 1931 showing illegal procedures are responsible for 14% of maternal deaths.

1950s: Hospitals start to form "therapeutic abortion boards" to decide whether doctors can perform an abortion on a case-by-case basis, according to Reagan. Therapeutic abortions are allowed by law if the mother's life is in danger. Hospital restrictions generated resentment among physicians who felt "shackled" by the law, Reagan writes.

1955: Planned Parenthood organizes a conference, "Abortion in the United States," that includes testimony from sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, abortionist G. Lotrell Timanus and Planned Parenthod's then-medical director Mary Calderone. A record of the conference is published in 1958, launching a national discussion on reformed abortion laws.

1960s: Pat Maginnis founds the Society for Humane Abortion, later becoming one of the first people to publicly campaign for legalizing abortion. "They thought she was insane," Reagan says of Maginnis' fellow pro-choice advocates. "They're trying to start talking about reform... and having her out there was hurting them."

Sherri Finkbine and her husband Robert arrive in Sweden, August 7, 1962.

1962: Sherri Finkbine, an Arizona mother of four, travels to Sweden after a local hospital denies her request for a legal abortion. Finkbine had taken the drug thalidomide, which researchers linked to birth defects.

The hospital was initially going to perform the procedure but withdrew its offer after Finkbine told her story to the local newspaper in hopes of alerting mothers to the dangers of the drug. The resulting publicity threw her into the middle of a worldwide debate.

1969: A group of young women in Chicago starts "Jane," an underground system that helps women find safe and affordable illegal abortions. Eventually they learn to perform the procedures themselves, completing nearly 12,000 abortions from 1969 to 1973, according to a documentary about the group.

Two significant court cases -- People v. Belous and Doe v. Scott, which reached the Supreme Court in 1971 -- declare abortion laws unconstitutional. "That prompted people all over the place to start putting together cases... challenging state abortion laws," Reagan says.

1970: By the early 1970s, 20 states have passed abortion reform or repeal laws. Hawaii, Alaska, New York and Washington state have legalized abortion.

1972: The Supreme Court legalizes the use of birth control pills for all women, regardless of marital status. Before the decision, only married women were able to receive the pill through a doctor's prescription.

1973: The Supreme Court settles Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, declaring abortion a right-to-privacy issue and hospital therapeutic abortion boards unconstitutional.

"Though often overlooked since, (Bolton) was as important as Roe," Reagan writes. "The Court held in Doe v. Bolton that policies designed to restrict access to abortion ... violated the rights of women to health care and of physicians to practice."

1976: In Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth, the Supreme Court declares a statute that requires parental and spousal consent for abortions unconstitutional.

Congress enacts the Hyde Amendment for the first time, banning the use of federal funds for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the mother's life. This amendment has been attached to the congressional appropriations bill and approved by Congress every year since then.

A group of women advocate for legal abortions in 1980.

1983: In Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, the Supreme Court declares unconstitutional an Ohio law that requires all abortions after the first trimester be performed at a hospital, a 24-hour waiting period and parental consent for girls younger than 15.

1989: The Supreme Court deals a blow to anti-abortion forces in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services by striking down a law that requires doctors to test the viability of the fetus before an performing any abortion. Three justices said they would allow restrictions on abortion but only if the restrictions had a rational basis.

1992: Supporters on either side of the abortion issue are left confused after the Supreme Court rules on Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania. v. Casey. The court says abortion regulations that present an "undue burden" on women's constitutional right will be prohibited; critics say "undue burden" is too vague.

Demonstrators chant in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in this January 1993 file photo during the Right-to-Life March.

1994: President Bill Clinton signs the Abortion-Clinic Protection Bill into law, which is designed to protect abortion clinics from attacks, blockades and acts of intimidation by pro-life protesters.

2000: The Food and Drug Administration approves the abortion pill RU-486. The drug enables a woman to terminate a pregnancy within seven weeks from her last menstrual period, without the need for a surgical abortion.

2003: President George W. Bush signs the "partial-birth abortion" bill, outlawing the procedure known as intact dilation and extraction (D&X). Federal judges quickly issue injunctions that temporarily nullify the law's effect for many abortion providers.

2004: About 800,000 demonstrators gather in Washington for the "March for Women's Lives," a protest against Bush's reproductive rights policies. This is the largest abortion-rights demonstration since a 1992 rally that drew at least 500,000 participants.

2007: The Supreme Court upholds the partial-birth abortion law 5-4 in the first federal restriction on a particular abortion method since Roe v. Wade.

In a bitter dissent read from the bench, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says the majority's opinion "cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away a right declared again and again by this court."

Pararmedics work on George Tiller after he was shot outside his clinic.

2009: President Barack Obama ends a ban on the use of U.S. foreign aid funds by international family planning programs that provided abortions or advice on obtaining one. The ban had first been instituted in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan.

George Tiller, a physician who performed late-term abortions, is shot and killed in Wichita, Kansas. Tiller, who had been subject to antiabortion protests and harassment for more than 20 years, was the first abortion provider killed since 1998.

Rally participants support Planned Parenthood at the National Mall in Washington on April 7, 2011.

2011: Voters in Mississippi reject the "personhood" amendment, which would have outlawed all forms of abortion, including for cases of rape, incest and life-threatening pregnancies.

Research from the Alan Guttmacher Institute finds the number of abortions is at its lowest level since Roe v. Wade, remaining steady at about 1.2 million reported procedures in 2011, down 25% since the all-time high in 1990.

2012: Susan G. Komen for the Cure announces it will cut off funding to affiliates of Planned Parenthood. The organization reverses the decision three days later amid a public outcry.

The Supreme Court upholds President Obama's Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Starting in 2014, the level of abortion coverage each woman will receive will depend on their state's policy, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The ACA prohibits states from including abortion in any essential benefits package and no plan in an insurance exchange is required to offer abortion coverage. In addition, states can bar all plans participating in the exchanges from covering abortions.

Sources: "When Abortion Was A Crime," by Leslie Reagan; Kaiser Family Foundation; 4,000 Years For Choice; NPR; National Right to Life.

By Jacque Wilson, CNN. Updated 10:56 AM EST, Tue January 22, 2013

dw_10rosefan 22nd-Jan-2013 05:52 pm (UTC)
I use PP, but only to get a HIV test.
mahasin 22nd-Jan-2013 06:24 pm (UTC)

When Abortion Was A Crime: The Untold Stories
nikoel 22nd-Jan-2013 07:06 pm (UTC)
This was excellent. Thank you.
moonshaz 22nd-Jan-2013 08:27 pm (UTC)
Wow. Thanks for posting that!
vulturoso 22nd-Jan-2013 07:22 pm (UTC)
1972: The Supreme Court legalizes the use of birth control pills for all women, regardless of marital status. Before the decision, only married women were able to receive the pill through a doctor's prescription.

Fucking 1972? Jesus Christ. That's so recent.

Also, question: so all of those trying to overturn Roe v. Wade... would they need to additionally get through Doe v. Bolton as well?
kyra_neko_rei 22nd-Jan-2013 08:29 pm (UTC)
It occurs to me that potentially all these abortion restrictions that states are passing could be challenged as being in violation of precedent set in Doe v. Bolton without ever giving anyone a chance to touch Roe v. Wade.

Granted, I'm not sure how this stuff works.
kyra_neko_rei 22nd-Jan-2013 08:35 pm (UTC)
On further research, it appears to be specifically the practice of having a team of doctors debate whether she "deserves" an abortion, and a restriction on only letting residents of that state access abortions, that were struck down. So I'm unsure as to whether it would be of any use fighting against other restrictions. It could be, but likely there'd be plenty of wiggle room for the Justices to decide that these restrictions are totally different than those restrictions.

That, and the plaintiff calls herself a pro-lifer and says she was lied to to get the case going, which is either retroactive regret or "the only moral abortion is my abortion," but it might be politically inexpedient to use it because you know the pro-lifers will scream themselves hoarse that it's proof that we're evil manipulative abortion-mongers.

Edited at 2013-01-22 08:38 pm (UTC)
vulturoso 22nd-Jan-2013 07:28 pm (UTC)
Just wanted to add that I had an abortion last year. It was in a quiet, private office in downtown Seattle. No protesters. The staff were all wonderful and supportive, politely listened to my Xanax-induced babbling about whatever popped into my brain, and helped me choose the right birth control in the follow-up appointment.

Even though I had no guilt about the procedure (I was not and am not ready to be a mom, holy crap), I was terrified of the actual procedure and how painful I thought it was going to be. Thank goodness a staff member was there every step of the way to calm me down.

Pisses me off that ALL girls and women who choose to terminate their pregnancy don't get the experience I had.
nikoel 22nd-Jan-2013 07:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing your story.

I had an abortion in 1997 and it was the best choice I ever made, especially since I'm married and childfree now. I went to the PP in Seattle and was referred to the clinic they did medical abortions after receiving their standard unbiased counselling. It was a lovely clinic with wonderful and compassionate staff.

I'm so grateful for legal, safe and available abortion services and my deepest wish is for every girl and woman to be treated with the same respect and compassion I received.
vulturoso 22nd-Jan-2013 11:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I'm glad you had a good experience as well.

I was thinking of somehow reaching out to girls in some way, since I'm not sensitive about the subject at all. Have you ever done that?

Also, I wonder if we went to the same clinic... O_O
nikoel 22nd-Jan-2013 11:09 pm (UTC)
I have long time friends who have only found out about my abortion in the last few years. It's something I've always shared with my boyfriends, but not necessarily all of my good friends. I don't fear being judged anymore, but it wasn't long ago that I still did. I'm trying to share it with people whenever the time is appropriate now to help de-stigmatize it. It's still tough sometimes!

I am a volunteer with Planned Parenthood now, but outside of that I haven't really reached out other than online in times like this one.

Mine was up in Northgate. I don't remember what it was called, but it wasn't downtown.
xylophagous 23rd-Jan-2013 11:58 am (UTC)
I had an abortion 3-4 yrs ago at a PP in NC, everything was really great and they acted like it was not a big deal, making jokes about things and making the mood light and fun. They were all really happy to help me and it was overall an amazing experience.

Beforehand I was talking about it among friends and one mentioned their little sister had gotten an abortion so they could help me out with feelings if I needed any support which was awesome. Then shortly after my older sister ended up being pregnant and wanting an abortion. It was an awesome feeling to be in the position before her so I could help walk her through things. She went to PP as well and unfortunately had to deal with protesters and I guess the staff acted bitter (just in general not specifically her abortion).

I'd love to be more proactive but it is worrisome on what family sees it as. I posted a really good document on FB once on abortion and what followed was nuts, I'd hate for that side of the family to know Ive had an abortion:

nikoel 23rd-Jan-2013 01:41 pm (UTC)
Ugh, that must have really sucked. There were a couple of awesome people in that thread though!

I'm really glad to hear you had a good experience and was able to be there for your sister. I so do not want to hear any more modern day horror stories. Women have so much to worry about and deal with in this world with little to no support from anyone. Providing safe and legal abortion for us in one of our greatest times of need is the least our government can do. Especially since it's actually the fiscally responsible thing to do once birth control methods have failed or a crime was committed.
lisaee 22nd-Jan-2013 08:06 pm (UTC)
I had my first US women's history class of the semester today, and we rather fittingly discussed Roe v Wade and Eisenstadt v Baird. It's both terrifying and heartening to think of how far reproductive rights have come in the past few decades, and just how much further we still have to go.

I enjoy living in a country where I have safe, free (if not on demand) access to abortion. Living in the US these past few months has really driven home to me how inaccessible abortion still is, even in my rich liberal state. As a poor woman it terrifies me. I can only hope that in the next few years abortion becomes easier and cheaper to access, and that self performed abortions and abortion funds will become a thing of the past. I know I'm being overly optimistic, though.
keeperofthekeys 23rd-Jan-2013 12:12 am (UTC)
I'm sort of surprised it took until so late in the day before anti-choice absurdity appeared on my facebook news feed:

"It just will never make sense to me how in the world some people can justify the death of 56,000,000 unborn children because of their mother's opinion. It is illegal to take the life of an unborn child if the mother wants the baby, but it is legal to take the life of the unborn if she doesn’t? How messed up is that! So in the first case the law treats the fetus as a human with rights and in the second case the law treats the fetus as a non-human with no rights? People are celebrating today on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade?? Really? 56 million! That is insane! 11 million died in the Holocaust. Wasn't it just Hitler's opinion that these people were non-human? He called Jews a type of sub-human. How do we abhor what Hitler did and commend Roe v. Wade and other pro-choice activists? There is zero difference between the two. The only difference is that there have been 5 times more murders through abortion than the Holocaust."

idk I can't even be that mad, it's just so absurd.

Edited at 2013-01-23 12:12 am (UTC)
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