Liberalization of Abortion Laws; Roe v. Wade
Between 1967 and 1973 one-third of the states liberalized or repealed their criminal abortion laws. However, the right to have an abortion in all states was only made available to American women in 1973 when the Supreme Court struck down the remaining restrictive state laws with its ruling in Roe v Wade.The 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade made it possible for women to get safe, legal abortions from well-trained medical practitioners. This led to dramatic decreases in pregnancy-related injury and death.The Roe case arose out of a Texas law that prohibited legal abortion except to save a woman’s life. At that time, most other states had laws similar to the one in Texas. Those laws forced large numbers of women to resort to illegal abortions.Jane Roe, a 21-year-old pregnant woman, represented all women who wanted abortions but could not get them legally and safely. Henry Wade was the Texas Attorney General who defended the law that made abortions illegal.After hearing the case, the Supreme Court ruled that Americans right to privacy included the right of a woman to decide whether to have children, and the right of a woman and her doctor to make that decision without state interference.
After Roe v. Wade
The reaction to Roe was swift. Supporters of legal abortion rejoiced and generally felt their battle was won. However, others faulted the Court for the decision. Those opposed to legal abortion immediately began working to prevent any federal or state funding for abortion and to undermine or limit the effect of the decision.Some turned to measures directly aimed at disrupting clinics where abortions were being performed. Their tactics have included demonstrating in front of abortion clinics, harassing people trying to enter, vandalizing clinic property and blocking access to clinics.As time passed, the level of anti-abortion violence escalated. Increasingly, clinic bombings, physical attacks and even murders endanger abortion providers and create a hostile environment for women seeking abortions.
Retreat from Roe v. Wade
Initially, the framework of Roe v. Wade was the basis by which the constitutionality of state abortion laws was determined. In recent years, however, the Supreme Court has begun to allow more restrictions on abortion.For instance, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 established that states can restrict pre-viability abortions. Restrictions can be placed on first trimester abortions in ways that are not medically necessary, as long as the restrictions do not pace an “undue burden” on the women seeking abortion services.Many states now have restrictions in place such as parental involvement, mandatory waiting periods and biased counseling. Only the requirement that a woman involve her spouse in her decision was disallowed.