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Abortion in the United States has been legal since the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker decision, but the effective availability of abortion varies strongly by state. Abortion is one of the most contested issues in U.S. society, law and politics.


In medical terms, the word abortion refers to any pregnancy that does not end in a live birth, and therefore can refer to a miscarriage or a premature birth that does not result in a live infant. Such events are often called spontaneous abortions if they occur before 20 weeks of gestation. In common parlance, however, abortion is used to mean "induced abortion" of an embryo or fetus at any point in pregnancy, and this is also how the term is used in a legal sense.


Abortion before Roe

[[Image:Map of US abortion laws pre-1973.svg|thumb|250px|right|Abortion laws in the U.S. prior to Roe.

There were few laws on abortion in the United States at the time of independence, except the common law adopted from England, which held abortion to be legally acceptable if occurring before quickening. James Wilson, a framer of the U.S. Constitution, explained as follows:

Various anti-abortion statutes began to appear in the 1820s. In 1821, Connecticutmarker passed a statute targeting apothecaries who sold poisons to women for purposes of abortion, and New Yorkmarker made post-quickening abortions a felony and pre-quickening abortions a misdemeanor eight years later. It is sometimes argued that the early American abortion statutes were motivated not by ethical concerns about abortion but by worry about the safety of the procedure; however, some legal theorists believe that this theory is inconsistent with the fact that abortion was punishable regardless of whether any harm befell the pregnant woman and the fact that many of the early statutes punished not only the doctors or abortionists, but also punished the women who hired them.

Many early feminists including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton argued against abortion for a variety of reasons. They also believed that a woman should be allowed to refuse sex with her husband. An American woman had no legal recourse at that time against rape by her husband, except possibly divorce, an option that (especially before the American Civil War) was usually available only for well-connected women of means who had sufficient resources not just to end the marriage but to also survive without a husband. In her newspaper, The Revolution, Anthony (or a colleague who signed "A") wrote in 1869 about the subject of abortion, arguing that "We want prevention, not merely punishment" and asserting that focusing solely on passing an anti-abortion law would "be only mowing off the top of the noxious weed, while the root remains." This piece in The Revolution continued:

The criminalization movement accelerated during the 1860s, and by 1900 abortion was largely illegal in every state. Some states did include provisions allowing for abortion in limited circumstances, generally to protect the woman's life or pregnancies due to rape or incest. Abortions continued to occur, however, and increasingly became readily available. Illegal abortions were often unsafe, sometimes resulting in death, as in the case of Gerri Santoro of Connecticut in 1964.

Some activist groups developed their own skills to provide abortions to women who could not obtain them elsewhere. As an example, in Chicago, a group known as "Jane" operated a floating abortion clinic throughout much of the 1960s. Women seeking the procedure would call a designated number and be given instructions on how to find "Jane".

In 1965, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Griswold v. Connecticut declaring a constitutional right to contraceptives, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a controversial medical bulletin declaring that drugs which halted human reproduction between fertilization and implantation were contraceptives instead of abortifacients.

In 1967, Coloradomarker became the first state to legalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, or in which pregnancy would lead to permanent physical disability of the mother. Similar laws were passed in Californiamarker, Oregonmarker, and North Carolinamarker. In 1970, New York repealed its 1830 law and allowed abortions up to the 24th week of pregnancy. Similar laws were soon passed in Alaskamarker, Hawaiimarker, and Washingtonmarker. A law in Washington, DCmarker, which allowed abortion to protect the life or health of the woman, was challenged in the Supreme Courtmarker in 1971 in United States v. Vuitch. The court upheld the law, deeming that "health" meant "psychological and physical well-being," essentially allowing abortion in Washington, DC. By the end of 1972, 13 states had a law similar to that of Colorado, while Mississippimarker allowed abortion in cases of rape or incest only and Alabamamarker allowed abortions only in cases where the mother'sphysical health was endangered. In order to obtain abortions during this period, mother would often travel from a state where abortion was illegal to states where it was legal.

Roe v. Wade

In deciding Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that a Texasmarker statute forbidding abortion except when necessary to save the life of the mother was unconstitutional. The Court arrived at its decision by concluding that the issue of abortion and abortion rights falls under the right to privacy. In its opinion it listed several landmark cases where the court had previously found a right to privacy implied by the Constitution. The court held that an baby or fetal child was not a person under the Constitution, and that a right to privacy existed and included the right to have an abortion. The court found that a mother had a right to abortion until viability, a point to be determined by the abortion doctor. After viability a woman can obtain an abortion for health reasons, which the Court defined broadly to include psychological well-being.

A central issue in the Roe case (and in the wider abortion debate in general) is whether human life begins at conception, birth, or at some point in between. The Court declined to make an attempt at resolving this issue, noting: "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer." Instead, it chose to point out that historically, under English and American common law and statutes, "the unborn have never been persons in the whole sense" and thus the fetal child are not legally entitled to the protection afforded by the right to life specifically enumerated in the Fourteenth Amendment. So rather than asserting that human life begins at any specific point, the court simply declared that the State has a "compelling interest" in protecting "potential life" at the point of viability.

Jane Roe and Mary Doe

"Jane Roe" of the landmark Roe v. Wade lawsuit, whose real name is Norma McCorvey, is now a strong Pro-life advocate. McCorvey writes that she never had the abortion and became the "pawn" of two young and ambitious lawyers who were looking for a plaintiff who they could use to challenge the Texasmarker state law prohibiting abortion. However, attorney Linda Coffee says she doesn't remember McCorvey having any hesitancy about wanting an abortion.

"Mary Doe" of the companion Doe v. Bolton lawsuit, the mother of three whose real name is Sandra Cano, maintains that she never wanted or had an abortion and that she is "ninety-nine percent certain that [she] did not sign" the affidavit to initiate the suit.

Later judicial decisions

The 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey overturned Roe's strict trimester formula, but reemphasized the right to abortion as grounded in the general sense of liberty and privacy protected under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution: "If the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child." Advancements in medical technology meant that a fetus might be considered viable, and thus have some basis of a right to life, at 22 or 23 weeks rather than at the 28 that was more common at the time Roe was decided.

The Supreme Court continues to grapple with cases on the subject. On April 18, 2007 it issued a ruling in the case of Gonzales v. Carhart, involving a Federal law entitled the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 which President George W. Bush had signed into law. The United States Supreme Court upheld the 2003 partial-birth abortion ban by a narrow majority of 5-4. The law stipulated that anyone breaking the law would get a prison sentence up to 2.5 years. The Supreme Court voted to uphold the national ban on the procedure opponents call "partial-birth abortion" (called intact dilation and extraction by the medical establishment), marking the first time the court has allowed a ban on any type of abortion since 1973. The swing vote, which came from moderate justice Anthony Kennedy, was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and the two recent appointees, Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Current legal situation


Since 1995, led by Congressional Republicans, the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have moved several times to pass measures banning the procedure of intact dilation and extraction, also commonly known as partial birth abortion. After several long and emotional debates on the issue, such measures passed twice by wide margins, but President Bill Clinton vetoed those bills in April 1996 and October 1997 on the grounds that they did not include health exceptions. Congressional supporters of the bill argue that a health exception would render the bill unenforceable, since the Doe v. Bolton decision defined "health" in vague terms, justifying any motive for obtaining an abortion. Subsequent Congressional attempts at overriding the veto were unsuccessful.

On October 2, 2003, with a vote of 281-142, the House again approved a measure banning the procedure, called the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Through this legislation, a doctor could face up to two years in prison and face civil lawsuits for performing such an abortion. A mother who undergoes the procedure cannot be prosecuted under the measure. The measure contains an exemption to allow the procedure if the mother's life is threatened. On October 21, 2003, the United States Senate passed the same bill by a vote of 64-34, with a number of Democrats joining in support. The bill was signed by President George W. Bush on November 5, 2003, but a federal judge blocked its enforcement in several states just a few hours after it became public law. The Supreme Court upheld the nationwide ban on the procedure in the case Gonzales v. Carhart on April 18, 2007. The 5-4 ruling said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act does not conflict with previous Court decisions regarding abortion.

The current judicial interpretation of the U.S. Constitution regarding abortion in the United Statesmarker, following the Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker's 1973 landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, and subsequent companion decisions, is that abortion is legal but may be restricted by the states to varying degrees. States have passed laws to restrict late term abortions, require parental notification for minors, and mandate the disclosure of abortion risk information to patients prior to the procedure.

The key, deliberated article of the U.S. Constitution is Article 14, Section 1, which states that

The official report of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, issued in 1983 after extensive hearings on the Human Life Amendment (proposed by Senators Orrin Hatch and Thomas Eagleton), stated what substantially remains true today:

One aspect of the legal abortion regime now in place has been determining when the fetus is "viable" outside the womb as a measure of when the "life" of the fetal child is its own (and therefore subject to being protected by the state). In the majority opinion delivered by the court in Roe v. Wade, viability was defined as "potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid. Viability is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks." When the court ruled in 1973, the then-current medical technology suggested that viability could occur as early as 24 weeks. Advances over the past three decades have allowed fetal children that are a few weeks less than 24 weeks old to survive outside the mother's womb. These scientific achievements, while life-saving for premature babies, have made the determination of being "viable" somewhat more complicated. As of 2006, the youngest child to survive a premature birth in the United States was a girl born at the Baptist Hospital of Miami at 21 weeks and 6 days' gestational age.

In comparison to other developed countries, the procedure is more available in the United States in terms of how late the abortion can legally be performed. However, in terms of other aspects such as government funding, privacy for non-adults, or geographical access, some U.S. states are far more restrictive. In Europe, abortion is usually only allowed up to 12 weeks (18 weeks in Sweden, 21 weeks in the Netherlands, 24 weeks in Great Britain). In France, unless the fetal children is severely deformed or the mother's health is directly at risk, any abortion after the first twelve weeks is illegal. There are no laws or restrictions regulating abortion in Canada, while Australia places heavier restrictions on the procedure. In many countries the right to abortion has been legalized by respective parliaments, while in the U.S. the right to abortion has been deemed a part of a constitutional right to privacy by the Supreme Court.

Because of the split between federal and state law, legal access to abortion continues to vary somewhat by state. Geographic availability, however, varies dramatically, with 87 percent of U.S. counties having no abortion provider. Moreover, due to the Hyde Amendment, many state health programs which poor women rely on for their health care do not cover abortions; currently only 17 states (including Californiamarker, Illinoismarker and New Yorkmarker) offer or require such coverage.

The legality of abortion in the United States is frequently a major issue in nomination battles for the U.S. Supreme Court. However, nominees typically remain silent on the issue during their hearings, because it is an issue that may come before them as judges.

The Unborn Victims of Violence Act, commonly known as "Laci and Conner's Law" was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush on April 1, 2004, allowing two charges to be filed against someone who kills a pregnant mother (one for the mother and one for the fetal children). It specifically bans charges against the mother and/or doctor relating to abortion procedures. Nevertheless, it has generated much controversy among pro-choice advocates. They view it as a potential step in the direction of banning abortion.

State by State Legal Status

Various states have passed legislation on the subject of feticide. On March 6, 2006, South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds signed into law a pro-life statute which made performing abortions a felony, and that law was subsequently repealed in a November 7, 2006 referendum. On February 27, 2006, Mississippimarker’s House Public Health Committee voted to approve a ban on abortion, and that bill died after the House and Senate failed to agree on compromise legislation. Several states have enacted "trigger laws" which "would take effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned." North Dakota HB 1572 or the Personhood of Children Act, which passed the North Dakota House of Representatives on February 18, 2009,aims to allocate rights to "the pre-born, partially born", and if passed, will likely be used to challenge Roe v. Wade.


Because reporting of abortions is not mandatory, statistics are of varying reliability. The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) regularly compiles these statistics.

Since 1973, over 45 million legal abortions have been performed in the United States.

Legal Abortions Performed in the United States AnnuallyNote: Not all states reported for each year. See citation for list of states not reporting.)
Year Number
1970 193,491
1971 485,816
1972 586,760
1973 615,831
1974 763,476
1975 854,853
1976 988,276
1977 1,079,430
1978 1,157,776
1979 1,251,921
1980 1,297,606
1981 1,330,760
1982 1,303,980
1983 1,268,987
1984 1,333,521
1985 1,328,570
1986 1,328,112
1987 1,353,671
1988 1,371,285
1989 1,396,658
1990 1,429,279
1991 1,388,937
1992 1,359,146
1993 1,330,414
1994 1,267,415
1995 1,210,883
1996 1,225,973
1997 1,186,039
1998 884,273
1999 861,789
2000 857,475
2001 853,485
2002 854,122
2003 848,163
2004 839,226
2005 820,151

Number of abortions in United States

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were 820,151 legal induced abortions in the US in 2005.

Histogram of the reported abortion rate per 1,000 live births in 2005 for residents in each of the United States except California, Florida, New Hampshire, and Louisiana

Abortions and ethnicity

Abortions are much more common among minority women in the U.S. In 2000-2001, the rates among black and Hispanic women were 49 per 1,000 and 33 per 1,000, respectively, vs. 13 per 1,000 among non-Hispanic white women.

Reasons for abortions

In 2000, cases of rape or incest accounted for 1% of abortions. Another study, in 1998, revealed that in 1987-1988 women reported the following reasons for choosing an abortion:

  • 25.5% Want to postpone childbearing
  • 21.3% Cannot afford a baby
  • 14.1% Has relationship problem or partner does not want pregnancy
  • 12.2% Too young; parent(s) or other(s) object to pregnancy
  • 10.8% Having a child will disrupt education or job
  • 7.9% Want no (more) children
  • 3.3% Risk to fetal health
  • 2.8% Risk to maternal health
  • 2.1% Other

According to a 1987 study that included specific data about late abortions (i.e. abortions “at 16 or more weeks' gestation”), women reported that various reasons contributed to their having a late abortion:

  • 71% Woman didn't recognize she was pregnant or misjudged gestation
  • 48% Woman found it hard to make arrangements for abortion
  • 33% Woman was afraid to tell her partner or parents
  • 24% Woman took time to decide to have an abortion
  • 8% Woman waited for her relationship to change
  • 8% Someone pressured woman not to have abortion
  • 6% Something changed after woman became pregnant
  • 6% Woman didn't know timing is important
  • 5% Woman didn't know she could get an abortion
  • 2% A fetal problem was diagnosed late in pregnancy
  • 11% Other

When women have abortions (by gestational age)

Abortion in the United States by gestational age, 2004.
(Data source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Public opinion

Generally speaking, in the United States induced abortions become more controversial the later they are performed into the pregnancy.

By gender, party, and region

A January 2003 CBS News/New York Times poll examined whether Americans thought abortion should be legal or not, and found variations in opinion which depended upon gender, party affiliation, and the region of the country. The margin of error is +/- 4% for questions answered of the entire sample ("overall" figures) and may be higher for questions asked of subgroups (all other figures).
Group Generally available Available, but with stricter limits than now Not permitted
Overall 39% 38% 22%
Women 37% 37% 24%
Men 40% 40% 20%
Democrats 43% 35% 21%
Republicans 29% 41% 28%
Independents 42% 38% 18%
Northeasterners 48% 31% 19%
Midwesterners 34% 40% 25%
Southerners 33% 41% 25%
Westerners 43% 40% 16%

By trimester of pregnancy

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll in January 2003 asked about the legality of abortion by trimester, using the question, "Do you think abortion should generally be legal or generally illegal during each of the following stages of pregnancy?" This same question was also asked by Gallup in March 2000 and July 1996.

2003 Poll 2000 Poll 1996 Poll
Legal Illegal Legal Illegal Legal Illegal
First trimester 66% 29% 66% 31% 64% 30%
Second trimester 25% 68% 24% 69% 26% 65%
Third trimester 10% 84% 8% 86% 13% 82%

By circumstance or reasons

An October 2007 CBS News poll explored under what circumstances Americans believe abortion should be allowed, asking the question, "What is your personal feeling about abortion?" The results were as follows:
Permitted in all cases Permitted, but subject to greater restrictions than it is now Only in cases such as rape, incest, or to save the woman's life Only permitted to save the woman's life Never Unsure
26% 16% 34% 16% 4% 4%

Additional polls

Results of Gallup opinion poll in USA since 1975 - legal restriction of abortion
  • A June 2000 Los Angeles Times survey found that, although 57% of polltakers considered abortion to be murder, half of that 57% believed in allowing women access to abortion. The survey also found that, overall, 65% of respondents did not believe abortion should be legal after the first trimester, including 72% of women and 58% of men. Further, the survey found that 85% of Americans polled supported abortion in cases of risk to a woman's physical health, 54% if the woman's mental health was at risk, and 66% if a congenital abnormality was detected in the fetus.
  • A July 2002 Public Agenda poll found that 44% of men and 42% of women thought that "abortion should be generally available to those who want it", 34% of men and 35% of women thought that "abortion should be available, but under stricter than limits it is now", and 21% of men and 22% of women thought that "abortion should not be permitted".
  • A January 2003 ABC News/Washington Post poll also examined attitudes towards abortion by gender. In answer to the question, "On the subject of abortion, do you think abortion should be legal in all cases, legal in most cases, illegal in most cases or illegal in all cases?", 25% of women responded that it should be legal in "all cases", 33% that it should be legal in "most cases", 23% that it should be illegal in "most cases", and 17% that it should be illegal in "all cases". 20% of men thought it should be legal in "all cases", 34% legal in "most cases", 27% illegal in "most cases", and 17% illegal in "all cases".
  • Most Americans favor both parental notification as well as parental consent, when a minor seeks an abortion. A Fox News poll in 2005 found that 78% of people favor a notification requirement, and 72% favor a consent requirement.
  • An April 2006 Harris poll on Roe v. Wade, asked, "In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that states' laws which made it illegal for a woman to have an abortion up to three months of pregnancy were unconstitutional, and that the decision on whether a woman should have an abortion up to three months of pregnancy should be left to the woman and her doctor to decide. In general, do you favor or oppose this part of the U.S. Supreme Court decision making abortions up to three months of pregnancy legal?", to which 49% of respondents indicated favor while 47% indicated opposition. The Harris organization has concluded from this poll that "49 percent now support Roe vs. Wade."
  • Two polls were released in May 2007 asking Americans "With respect to the abortion issue, would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?" May 4th through 6th, a CNN poll found 45% said pro-choice and 50% said pro-life. Within the following week, a Gallup poll found 50% responding pro-choice and 44% pro-life.

Partial birth abortion

Partial-birth abortion is a non-medical term for a procedure called intact dilation and extraction. A Rasmussen Reports poll four days after the Supreme Court's opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart found that 40% of respondents "knew the ruling allowed states to place some restrictions on specific abortion procedures." Of those who knew of the decision, 56% agreed with the decision and 32% were opposed. An ABC poll from 2003 found that 62% of respondents thought "partial-birth abortion" should be illegal; a similar number of respondents wanted an exception "if it would prevent a serious threat to the woman's health." Additional polls from 2003 found between 47–70% in favor of banning partial-birth abortions and between 25–40% opposed.

Abortion financing

The cost of an abortion varies depending on factors such as location, facility, timing, and type of procedure. In 2005, a nonhospital abortion at 10 weeks’ gestation ranged from $90 to $1,800 (average: $430), whereas an abortion at 20 weeks’ gestation ranged from $350 to $4,520 (average: $1,260). Costs are higher for a medical abortion than a first-trimester surgical abortion.


  • Federal law requires that states cover abortions under Medicaid in the event of rape, incest, and life endangerment, but bans the use of federal Medicaid funds for any other abortions.
  • Based on these restrictions, 32 states and DC fund abortions through Medicaid only in the cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. SD covers abortions only in the cases of life endangerment, which does not comply with federal requirements under the Hyde Amendment. IN, UT and WI have expanded coverage to women whose physical health is jeopardized, and IA, MS, UT and VA also include fetal abnormality cases.
  • Seventeen states (AK, AZ, CA, CT, HI, IL, MD, MA, MN, MT, NJ, NM, NY, OR, VT, WA, WV) use their own funds to cover all or most “medically necessary” abortions sought by low-income women under Medicaid.

Private insurance

  • Five states (ID, KY, MO, ND, OK) restrict insurance coverage of abortion services in private plans: OK limits coverage to life endangerment, rape or incest circumstances; and the other four states limit coverage to cases of life endangerment.
  • Twelve states (CO, IL, KY, MA, MS, NE, ND, OH, PA, RI, SC, VA) restrict abortion coverage in insurance plans for public employees, with CO and KY restricting insurance coverage of abortion under any circumstances.
  • U.S. laws also ban federal funding of abortions for Federal employees and their dependents, Native Americans covered by the Indian Health Service, military personnel and their dependents, and women with disabilities covered by Medicare.

Positions of U.S. political parties

Though members of both major political parties come down on either side of the issue, the Republican Party is often seen as being pro-life, since the official party platform opposes abortion and considers unborn children to have an inherent right to life. Republicans for Choice represents the minority of that party. In 2006 pollsters found that 9% of Republicans favor the availability of abortion in most circumstances.[34367] Of Republican National Convention delegates in 2004, 13% believed that abortion should be generally available, and 38% believed that it should not be permitted. The same poll showed that 17% of all Republican voters believed that abortion should be generally available to those who want it, while 38% believed that it should not be permitted.[34368]

The Democratic Party platform considers abortion to be a woman's right. Democrats for Life of America represents the minority of that party. In 2006 pollsters found that 74% of Democrats favor the availability of abortion in most circumstances.[34369] However, in 2004, forty-three percent (43%) of all Democrats believed that abortion "destroys a human life and is manslaughter." Of Democratic National Convention delegates in 2004, 75% believed that abortion should be generally available, and 2% believed that abortion should not be permitted. The same poll showed that 49% of all Democratic voters believed that abortion should be generally available to those who want it, while 13% believed that it should not be permitted.[34370]

The US Green Party supports abortion as a woman's right.

The US Libertarian Party takes no position on abortion, but the Party opposes any government funding of abortion.

In the United States the abortion issue has become deeply politicized: in 2002, 84% of state Democratic platforms supported abortion while 88% of state Republican platforms opposed it. This divergence also led to Christian Right organizations like Christian Voice, Christian Coalition and Moral Majority having an increasingly strong role in the Republican Party. This opposition has been extended under the Foreign Assistance Act: in 1973 Jesse Helms introduced an amendment banning the use of aid money to promote abortion overseas, and in 1984 the Mexico City Policy prohibited financial support to any overseas organization that performed or promoted abortions. The "Mexico City Policy" was revoked by President Bill Clinton and subsequently reinstated by President George W. Bush. President Barack Obama immediately overruled this policy by Executive Order on January 23, 2009.

The official platforms of the major political parties in the US are as follows:

The US Republican Party

  • 2008: "Faithful to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence, we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life...."
  • 2004: "As a country, we must keep our pledge to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence. That is why we say the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and we endorse legislation to make it clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. Our purpose is to have legislative and judicial protection of that right against those who perform abortions. We oppose using public revenues for abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life."
  • 2000: "Ban abortion with Constitutional amendment. We say the unborn child has a fundamental right to life. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and we endorse legislation that the 14th Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. Our purpose is to have legislative and judicial protection of that right against those who perform abortions. We oppose using public revenues for abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect the sanctity of innocent human life."
  • 2000: "Alternatives like adoption, instead of punitive action. Our goal is to ensure that women with problem pregnancies have the kind of support, material and otherwise, they need for themselves and for their babies, not to be punitive towards those for whose difficult situation we have only compassion. We oppose abortion, but our pro-life agenda does not include punitive action against women who have an abortion. We salute those who provide alternatives to abortion and offer adoption services."

The US Democratic Party

  • 2008: "The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs."
  • 2004: "Support right to choose even if mother cannot pay. Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare."
  • 2000: "Choice is a fundamental, constitutional right. Democrats stand behind the right of every woman to choose. We believe it is a constitutional liberty. This year’s Supreme Court ruling show us that eliminating a woman’s right to choose is only one justice away. Our goal is to make abortion more rare, not more dangerous. We support contraceptive research, family planning, comprehensive family life education, and policies that support healthy childbearing."

Effects of legalization

The risk of death due to legal abortion has fallen considerably since legalization in 1973, due to increased physician skills, improved medical technology, and earlier termination of pregnancy. From 1940 through 1970, deaths of pregnant women during abortion fell from nearly 1,500 to a little over 100. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of women who died in 1972 from illegal abortion was thirty-nine (39). In 1960, Dr. Mary Calderone, a former director of Planned Parenthood, said:

After 1973, legalization of abortion led to an approximately tenfold increase in the total number of abortions, though there is some dispute over the prelegalization statistics.

The Roe effect is an unproven hypothesis which suggests that since supporters of abortion rights cause the erosion of their own political base by having fewer children, the practice of abortion will eventually lead to the restriction or illegalization of abortion. The legalized abortion and crime effect is another controversial theory that posits legal abortion reduces crime, because unwanted children are more likely to become criminals.

Pro-Life Movement

Organizations and individuals opposing legal abortion in the United States typically focus on one of two primary strategies: limitation and prevention. Those focusing on limitation participate in lobbying, rallies, and grassroots efforts to influence the public and lawmakers. The most common prevention strategy is the manning of pregnancy help centers, also called Crisis Pregnancy Centers or CPC's. These centers provide pregnancy tests and present women with information intended to lead them to reject abortion. They also provide practical help which varies according to the organization's means, ranging from help obtaining public assistance to providing housing and medical care. However, many CPCs have been accused of dishonest tactics, such as promising help that is then not given, providing medically false information about pregnancy and contraception, telling women that they are not pregnant when they are, and falsely claiming to provide abortion services.

The most highly visible prevention activity is presence outside abortion facilities. The activity outside the facility can range from simply handing out brochures to attempts to totally block entrance. Typical activity is a mix of protesters holding signs and "sidewalk counselors" attempting to speak to those entering the facility in the hope of dissuading them. One popular method of attempting to dissuade women from entering the facility is the "Chicago method" which consists of obtaining legal complaints against the facility and/or practitioner and giving copies of these complaints to patients and their companions.

Organizations and individuals opposing abortion typically present one of two general arguments against the general availability of abortion. Some argue that because of the complexity and difficulty involved in determining exactly when life begins, the law should err on the side of protecting the fetus over the pregnant woman's privacy rights. Other organizations and individuals opposing abortion argue that the fetus is a distinct living entity, thus it is a person and is entitled to protection under the law.

Abortion is strongly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church and other religious denominations. The focal point of their efforts has been overturning Roe v. Wade. Other religious actions include the erection of Pro-Life memorials on church property, prayer, and fasting.


In the 1980s and 1990s, many opponents of legal abortion turned to speaking with abortion clinics and women seeking abortions. The organization Operation Rescue carried out organized picketing, occupations, and blockades of abortion clinics, in which hundreds of pro-life activists would surround clinics in an attempt to shut them down.

Operation Rescue went bankrupt in the course of defending itself in the case Scheidler v. National Organization for Women, Inc.. Many of its tactics were specifically outlawed by the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, known as the "FACE Act" or "Access Act".

Anti-abortion violence

The majority of anti-abortion violence has been committed in the United States. At least nine people have been killed as a result of violence to abortion providers, the most recent being George Tiller in May 2009.

Notes and references

  1. According to the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade: :"(a) For the stage prior to approximately the end of the first trimester, the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman's attending physician. :"(b) For the stage subsequent to approximately the end of the first trimester, the State, in promoting its interest in the health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health. :"(c) For the stage subsequent to viability, the State in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother." Likewise, Black's Law Dictionary defines abortion as "knowing destruction" or "intentional expulsion or removal."
  2. Suzanne M. Alford, Is Self-Abortion a Fundamental Right?, 52 Duke Law Journal 1011.
  3. Riley, Glenda. Divorce, page 81 (U of Nebraska Press 1997): “Because there were no laws against marital rape, female [divorce] petitioners who believed they had been sexually abused used the ground of cruelty.”
  4. McMillen, Sally Gregory. Seneca Falls and the origins of the women's rights movement. Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 21–23. ISBN 0195182650: "Legally ending a marriage required extensive resources....Most women in unhappy marriages had no choice but to remain married, often because they lacked the financial means to survive without a husband....Couples in unhappy marriages often found other ways to cope by leading separate lives."
  5. Crossed, Carol. “Susan B. Anthony's Birthday-Follow footsteps of early feminists: Uphold rights of unborn children” (2007-02-15): “Some contemporary women's scholars quibble over whether it was Anthony herself who penned the article describing abortion in The Revolution as ‘The horrible crime of child-murder.’ (The article was signed 'A.')”
  7. An Interview with Norma McCorvey. Ann Scheidler, Chicago Pro-life Action League. April 20, 1996.
  8. Affidavit of Sandra Cano. January 2, 2005.
  9. Interactive maps comparing U.S. abortion restrictions by state, LawServer
  10. Baptist Hospital of Miami, Fact Sheet (2006).
  11. "Public Funding for Abortion" (map)
  12. Myers, Megan. "S.D. rejects abortion ban", Argus Leader, (2006-11-08). Retrieved 2007-01-23.
  13. MacIntyre, Krystal. " Mississippi abortion ban bill fails as legislators miss deadline for compromise", Jurist News Archive (2006-03-28). Retrieved 2007-01-23.
  14. Alford, Jeremy. "Louisiana Governor Plans To Sign Anti-Abortion Law". New York Times. Section A; Column 3; National Desk; Pg. 18 June 7, 2006. Retrieved December 23, 2007. Quote: "Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco's office said Tuesday that she would shortly sign into law a strict ban on abortion that would permit abortion only in the case where a woman's life was threatened by pregnancy. The bill, approved by both houses of the Legislature and sent to the governor on Monday, would go into effect only if the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade... Eleven other states are considering similar measures. Six other states have bans, similar to the Louisiana bill, that would be put into effect by the end of Roe."
  15. "US state's 'personhood' law would hit birth control: opponents" 2009-02-18 AFP
  16. Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States
  17. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, November 28, 2008 / Vol. 57 / No. SS–13
  18. Abortion Surveillance - United States, 2005
  19. Get "In the Know": Questions About Pregnancy, Contraception and Abortion
  20. Guttmacher Institute, "Induced Abortion Facts in Brief" (2002) (13,000 out of 1.31 million abortions in 2000 were on account of rape or incest). Retrieved via InfoPlease 2007-01-07.
  21. Bankole et al., "Reasons Why Women Have Induced Abortions: Evidence from 27 Countries", International Family Planning Perspectives (1998). Also see Lawrence B. Finer, Lori F. Frohwirth, Lindsay A. Dauphinee, Susheela Singh, and Ann M. Moore, "Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives", Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 37(3):110-118 (September 2005).
  22. Aida Torres and Jacqueline Darroch Forrest, "Why Do Women Have Abortions", Family Planning Perspectives, 20 (4) Jul/Aug 1988, pp 169-176 (The bimonthly research journal of The Alan Guttmacher Institute): "Some 42 facilities were originally invited to participate in the study; these include six at which a relatively large number of late abortions (those at 16 or more weeks' gestation) were performed."
  23. " Poll: Strong Support For Abortion Rights" (January 22 2003). CBS News. Retrieved January 11, 2007.
  24. The Polling Report. (2008). Retrieved 2008-09-10.
  25. See Saad, " Americans Walk the Middle Road on Abortion," The Gallup Poll Monthly (April 2000); Gallup Poll Topics from Florida Right to Life. Retrieved 2007-01-12.
  27. Rubin, Allisa J. (June 18, 2000). " Americans Narrowing Support for Abortion." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 11, 2007.
  28. Public Agenda Online. (2006). Men and women hold similar views on the legality of abortion. Retrieved January 11, 2006.
  29. FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll. April 25-26, 2005: "Do you think a female under age 18 should be required by state law to notify at least one parent or guardian before having an abortion?" 78% yes, 17% no. "Do you think a female under age 18 should be required by state law to get permission or consent from at least one parent or guardian before having an abortion?" 72% yes, 22% no.
  30. Harris Interactive, (2006-05-04). " Support for Roe vs. Wade Declines to Lowest Level Ever." Retrieved 2007-01-04. Pro-life activists have disputed whether the Harris poll question is a valid measure of public opinion about Roe's overall decision, because the question focuses only on the first three months of pregnancy. See Franz, Wanda. "The Continuing Confusion About Roe v. Wade", NRL News (June 2007). Also see Adamek, Raymond. "Abortion Polls", Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 3 (Autumn, 1978), pp. 411-413.
  31. CNN Opinion Research Poll, (2007-05-09). Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  32. "Abortion" The Gallup Poll (5/21/2007) Retrieved 2007-05-28.
  33. Most Who Know of Decision Agree With Supreme Court on Partial Birth Abortion Rasmussen Reports. April 22, 2007. Retrieved on April 26, 2007
  34. Abortion and Birth Control. Retrieved April 26, 2007
  35. Zogby International
  36. GOP party platform 2008
  37. GOP party platform 2004, p.84.
  38. Republican Platform adopted at GOP National Convention August 12, 2000.
  39. Dem Party Platform's New Abortion Language, Dem Platform's New Abortion Language (2008). Retrieved 2008-08-13
  40. The Democratic Platform for America, p.36 July 10, 2004.
  41. Democratic National Platform August 15, 2000.
  42. "Induced termination of pregnancy before and after Roe v. Wade" JAMA, 12/9/92, vol. 208, no. 22, p. 3231-3239.
  43. Lilo T. Strauss, M.A., Joy Herndon, M.S., Jeani Chang, M.P.H., Wilda Y. Parker Sonya V. Bowens, M.S., Suzanne B. Zane, D.V.M., Cynthia J. Berg, M.D., Abortion Surveillance --- United States, 2001 (Table 19).
  44. See Syska, Hilgers & O'Hare, An Objective Model for Estimating Criminal Abortions and Its Implications for Public Policy, in New Perspectives on Human Abortion 178 (Hilgers, Horan & Mall eds. 1981). For a review of the dispute over prelegalization statistics, see Daniel Callahan, Abortion: Law, Choice and Morality 132 (1970); Stephen Krason, Abortion: Politics, Morality, and the Constitution 301(1984).
  45. "Anti-Abortion Center's Ads Ruled Misleading," New York Times
  46. "The "Chicago Method": Sidewalk Counseling that appeals to the Mother's concerns for her own well-being", Priests for Life
  47. Medical Testimony: A new human being comes into existence during the process of fertilization, Abort73
  48. Group of Bishops Using Influence to Oppose Kerry. New York Times. October 12, 2004.
  49. Access to Reproductive Health Clinics and Places of Religious Worship. U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section. October 20, 1999.

See also


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