Abortion in the United States
has been legal since
the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court 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
a premature birth that does not result in a live infant. Such
events are often called spontaneous
if they occur before 20 weeks of gestation. In common
parlance, however, abortion is used to mean "induced abortion" of
any point in pregnancy, and this is also how the term is used in a
Abortion before Roe
[[Image:Map of US abortion laws
pre-1973.svg|thumb|250px|right|Abortion laws in the U.S. prior to
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
, a framer of the U.S. Constitution
, explained as
Various anti-abortion statutes began to appear in the 1820s.
Connecticut passed a statute targeting apothecaries who sold poisons to women for
purposes of abortion, and New York 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
and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
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
, 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 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
constitutional right to contraceptives, the American
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
(ACOG) issued a
declaring that drugs which halted human
reproduction between fertilization and implantation were contraceptives
instead of abortifacients
Colorado 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 California, Oregon, and
1970, New York repealed its 1830 law and allowed abortions up to
the 24th week of pregnancy. Similar laws were soon passed in Alaska, Hawaii, and
Washington. A law in Washington, DC, which allowed abortion to protect the life or
health of the woman, was challenged in the Supreme
Court in 1971 in United States v.
. 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
Mississippi allowed abortion in cases of rape or incest only
and Alabama allowed
abortions only in cases where the mother'sphysical health was
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
Texas statute forbidding abortion except when necessary
to save the life of the mother was unconstitutional.
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
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 recognized...as 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
Jane Roe and Mary Doe
"Jane Roe" of the landmark Roe v. Wade
whose real name is Norma McCorvey
now a strong Pro-life
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 Texas state law
However, attorney Linda Coffee says
she doesn't remember McCorvey having any hesitancy about wanting an
"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
strict trimester formula, but reemphasized the right
to abortion as grounded in the general sense of liberty and privacy
protected under the Due Process
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
which President George W.
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
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
, Clarence Thomas
, and the two recent
appointees, Samuel Alito
Justice John Roberts
Current legal situation
Since 1995, led by Congressional Republicans
, the U.S. House of
have moved several times
to pass measures banning the procedure of intact dilation and
, 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
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
On October 2, 2003, with a vote of 281-142, the House
a measure banning the procedure, called the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban
. 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
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.
on April 18,
2007. The 5-4 ruling said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban
does not conflict with previous Court decisions regarding
The current judicial interpretation of the U.S. Constitution regarding abortion in the United States, following the Supreme
Court of the United States'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 key, deliberated article of the U.S. Constitution
, 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
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
" 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
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
. 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 California, Illinois and New
York) 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
The Unborn Victims of
, 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
which made performing abortions a felony, and that law
was subsequently repealed in a November 7, 2006 referendum.
February 27, 2006, Mississippi’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.
have enacted "trigger laws" which "would take effect if Roe v. Wade
is overturned." North Dakota HB
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.)
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
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
- 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
“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
- 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
Generally speaking, in the United States induced abortions become
more controversial the later they are performed into the
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
, 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).
By trimester of pregnancy
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.
By circumstance or reasons
An October 2007 CBS News
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
||Only in cases such as rape, incest, or to save the woman's
||Only permitted to save the woman's life
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
- 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
- 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
. A Rasmussen
poll four days after the Supreme Court's opinion in
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.
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
minority of that party. In 2006 pollsters found that 9% of
Republicans favor the availability of abortion in most
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.
platform considers abortion to be a woman's right.
Democrats for Life of
represents the minority of that party. In 2006
pollsters found that 74% of Democrats favor the availability of
abortion in most circumstances.
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.
The US Green Party
supports abortion as a woman's right.
The US Libertarian
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
supported abortion while 88% of state Republican
it. This divergence also led to Christian Right
organizations like Christian Voice
, Christian Coalition
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
financial support to any overseas organization that performed or
promoted abortions. The "Mexico City Policy" was revoked by
President Bill Clinton
reinstated by President George W.
. 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
- 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
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
- 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
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
is another controversial theory that posits legal
abortion reduces crime, because unwanted children are more likely
to become criminals.
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
, 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
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
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
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
women seeking abortions. The organization Operation Rescue
carried out organized
, 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
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
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
- 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
- Suzanne M. Alford, Is Self-Abortion a Fundamental Right?, 52 Duke Law
- 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.”
- 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."
- 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.')”
- An Interview with Norma McCorvey. Ann
Scheidler, Chicago Pro-life Action League. April 20, 1996.
- Affidavit of Sandra Cano. January 2, 2005.
- Interactive maps comparing U.S. abortion restrictions by
- Baptist Hospital of Miami, Fact Sheet (2006).
- "Public Funding for Abortion" (map)
- Myers, Megan. "S.D. rejects abortion ban", Argus Leader,
(2006-11-08). Retrieved 2007-01-23.
- MacIntyre, Krystal. " Mississippi abortion ban bill fails as legislators
miss deadline for compromise", Jurist News Archive
(2006-03-28). Retrieved 2007-01-23.
- Alford, Jeremy. "Louisiana Governor Plans To Sign Anti-Abortion Law".
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
- "US state's 'personhood' law would hit birth
control: opponents" 2009-02-18 AFP
- Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States
- MMWR Surveillance Summaries, November 28, 2008 /
Vol. 57 / No. SS–13
- Abortion Surveillance - United States,
- Guttmacher.org Get "In the Know": Questions About Pregnancy,
Contraception and Abortion
- 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.
- 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).
- 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."
- " Poll: Strong Support For Abortion Rights"
(January 22 2003). CBS News. Retrieved January 11,
- The Polling Report. (2008). Retrieved
- See Saad, " Americans Walk the Middle Road on Abortion,"
The Gallup Poll Monthly (April 2000); Gallup Poll Topics from Florida Right to Life.
- Rubin, Allisa J. (June 18, 2000). " Americans Narrowing Support for Abortion."
Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 11, 2007.
- Public Agenda Online. (2006). Men and women hold similar views on the legality of
abortion. Retrieved January 11, 2006.
- 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.
- 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.
- CNN Opinion Research Poll, (2007-05-09).
- "Abortion" The Gallup Poll (5/21/2007)
- Most Who Know of Decision Agree With Supreme Court
on Partial Birth Abortion Rasmussen Reports. April 22,
2007. Retrieved on April 26, 2007
- Abortion and Birth Control.
PollingReports.com Retrieved April 26, 2007
- Zogby International
- http://www.gop.com/2008Platform/Values.htm#5 GOP party platform
- GOP party platform 2004, p.84.
- Republican Platform adopted at GOP National Convention August
- Dem Party Platform's New Abortion Language, Dem
Platform's New Abortion Language (2008). cbn.com. Retrieved
- The Democratic Platform for America, p.36 July 10, 2004.
- Democratic National Platform August 15, 2000.
- "Induced termination of pregnancy before and after Roe v.
Wade" JAMA, 12/9/92, vol. 208, no. 22, p. 3231-3239.
- 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
- 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).
- "Anti-Abortion Center's Ads Ruled Misleading,"
New York Times
- "The "Chicago Method": Sidewalk Counseling that appeals to
the Mother's concerns for her own well-being", Priests for
- Medical Testimony: A new human being comes into
existence during the process of fertilization, Abort73
- Group of Bishops Using Influence to Oppose Kerry. New
York Times. October 12, 2004.
- Access to Reproductive Health Clinics and Places of
Religious Worship. U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights
Division Special Litigation Section. October 20, 1999.