Abortion Laws

Overview of the History of the Abortion Law in America

Abortion has not always been legal in the United States. After the American Medical Association condemned abortion except when the mother or child was at risk in 1859, it became illegal to perform abortions in 1875. It wasn’t until 1967 that Colorado passed a law stating that it could be performed in cases of rape, incest or threat to a mother’s life that it changed. By 1970, fourteen states allowed abortions under certain circumstances. Then, in 1973, the Roe v. Wade case made it a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion or not.

Roe v. Wade

Roe v Wade was the landmark case that set the precedent for allowing abortions to be performed. The case was argued on December 13, 1971 and decided on January 22, 1973. The court ruled that a woman had a right to privacy which means that only she could decide what would happen with her own body, and that abortions would be legal up until the point that a child could be viable, outside the womb. It was sparked by a woman, Norma L. McCorvey, seeking to have an abortion when her baby was not the result or rape or incest. A case was filed against the State of Texas on her behalf that eventually reached the Supreme Court.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey

In 1992, a case was brought before the Supreme Court by Planned Parenthood against Robert P. Casey that challenged the constitutionality of five orders under Roe V. Wade. It challenged the length of the waiting period, the parental consent rule, and the spousal notification requirement. It was the first case to have a chance of overturning Wade in US history. However, the Supreme Court upheld Roe v Wade although it did lower the standard for analyzing the restrictions placed on abortions. The case made it a little bit easier for new laws that block abortion to be passed, including laws that can almost entirely prevent it. It affected mostly the young, the poor, the minority, and rural women unable to overcome obstacles like waiting periods or biased counseling.

Partial-Birth Abortion Laws

Partial-Birth abortion is illegal in all fifty states in all cases. There is no exception for when a mother’s health may be in danger in cases of partial-birth abortion. In 2003, a bill was signed into law that banned it completely. Partial-birth abortions are abortions defined as taking place between 18 and 26 weeks and is not a way of preventing women that far along from actually having an abortion. Instead, it’s aimed at outlawing a specific method of abortion.

State Abortion Law Resources

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