Chronology of Abortion in US
Landmarks in abortion, both legal precedents and violence toward abortion providers.
Chronology of Abortion Politics
(*adapted, with permission, from Abortion Wars, A Half Century of Struggle 1950-2000 by Rickie Solinger, U of CA, 1998)
1953- Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Female reports that 9 out of 10 premarital pregnancies end in abortion, and 22% of married women have had an abortion while married.
1955 Mary S. Calderone, medical director of Planned Parenthood organizes high profile conference, “Abortion in America”; conference volume published in 1958.
1960 American Medical Assn observes that laws against abortion are unenforceable.
•American Law Institute (ALI) endorses liberalization of abortion laws.
1962 In highly publicized incident, Sherry Finkbine, denied an abortion in Phoenix, goes to Stockholm to abort a fetus damaged by thalidomide; according to Gallup Poll, 52% of Americans approve. •In California, Pat Maginnus founds women’s rights based Citizens for Humane Abortion Laws.
1965 NYTimes endorses abortion law reform. •Rubella epidemic leads to abortions performed on grounds of “mental health crisis.” •In Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court rules 7-2 that ban on contraception infringes on married couples’ right to privacy.
Mid 1960’s Abortion law repeal (vs. reform) efforts gain momentum.
1966 National Organization for Women (NOW) formed. •Association to Repeal Abortion Laws in California started.
1967 J of American Medical Assn prints pro-reform editorial.
•Abortion reform bills considered by at least 25 state legislatures. •Colorado enacts ALI style abortion reform law, followed by North Carolina and California. •21 NY clergymen establish Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, an abortion referral network. •Federal government spends over $20 million a year on contraceptive programs in US. •Modern Medicine magazine reports 87% if American physicians favor liberalization of anti-abortion laws. •Bill Baird jailed for giving a student a contraceptive device on BU campus, a case which would become Baird v. Eisenstadt establishing right to privacy in matters of reproduction. *
1969 Jane, an underground abortion services network, formed in Chicago. •First National Conference on Abortion Laws held. •National Assn for Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) founded there. •Radical feminist group Redstockings holds first speakout on abortion.
1970 NY State legislature legalizes abortion; Hawaii and Washington follow.
1971 National poll shows that over half of Americans favor legalized abortion. •American Bar Assn officially supports a woman’s right to choose abortion up to 20th week of pregnancy. •Supreme Court hears first round of oral arguments in Roe v. Wade. Abele v. Markle filed in Conn with 858 plaintiffs. •Dr. Jane Hodgson convicted for performing in-hospital abortion, only US physician ever convicted for this reason. •Feminist Women’s Health Center set up in Los Angeles; teaches women how to perform “menstrual extractions.”
1972 Connecticut’s abortion law declared unconstitutional; •Meskill bill reinstates law; Women vs Conn. Files new suit with 2000 plaintiffs.
1973 Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade decision legalizes abortion as does its ruling in companion case, Doe v Bolton. •NARAL becomes National Abortion Rights Action League in response to anti-Roe backlash. •First edition of Right to Life Committee’s newsletter editorializes, “We must work for the passage of a constitutional Human Life Amendment.” •Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights founded.
1975 National Women’s Health Network founded.
1976 Hyde Amendment enacted, prohibiting Medicaid-funded abortions except “where the life of the mother would be endangered.”
1977 National Abortion Federation formed.*
1979 Bill Baird’s Hempstead NY clinic firebombed with 50 people inside it.*
1980 Republican Party platform calls for appointment of anti-abortion judges at every level of federal judiciary. •In Harris v. McRae Supreme Court rules that although the government may not place obstacles in the path of women’s exercise of her freedom of choice, it need not remove those not of its own creation. Indigence falls within the latter category.”
1982 Dr. Hector Zevallos and his wife, owner of Hope Clinic kidnapped by Army of God and held in concrete bunker for 8 days.*
1983 National Black Women’s Health Project founded.
1985 Women of Color Partnership Program created by Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights.
1987 Reproductive Health Technologies Project founded. •Randall Terry holds first “rescue.”
1988 Operation Rescue formally established. •In Bowen v. Kendrick Supreme Court upholds Adolescent Family Life Act’s denial of funding to programs that “advocate, promote, or encourage abortion.”
1989 In Webster v. Reproductive Health Services Supreme Court upholds Missouri law stating “human life begins at conception” and placing restrictions on access to abortion; Court comes within one vote of overturning Roe v. Wade. •Teenager Becky Bell, afraid to obey parental notification statute, dies after septic illegal abortion.
1989-1992 Over 700 anti-abortion rights bills introduced into state legislatures in US.
Late 1980’s-early 1990’s- Anti abortion violence aimed at abortion clinics escalates.
1990- In Hodgson v Minnesota Supreme Court upholds state law that no abortion should be performed on a minor woman for 28 hours after both parents are notified; statute also provides for “judicial bypass.” •National Coalition of Abortion Providers formed.*
1991 RU486 approved in Britain. • Operation Rescue stages massive blockades throughout summer in Wichita Kansas. • In Rust v. Sullivan Supreme Court rules 5-4 that since the government had not discriminated on the basis of viewpoint, but had “merely chosen to fund one activity (childbirth) to the exclusion of another (abortion), the “gag rule” prohibiting physicians and other employees of Title X family planning agencies from counseling pregnant women about abortion” did not violate the free speech rights of doctors, their staffs, or their patients.
1992 President Clinton lifts “gag rule.” •National Network of Abortion Funds established. •84% of counties in US have no physician willing to perform abortions. •In Planned Parenthood v Casey Supreme Court rules 5-4 to “retain and reaffirm” women’s right to abortion but also upholds Pennsylvania’s restrictions. •In wake of Casey decision Mississippi becomes first state to introduce a mandatory delay and biased information requirement.
1993 NARAL changers its name to National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. •National Black Women’s Health Project takes lead in fight against Hyde Amendment. •Dr. David Gunn, an abortion practitioner, murdered in Florida. •Congress expands Hyde Amendment to provide federal funding for abortions in cases of rape and incest. •Dr. George Tiller shot by Shelley Shannon outside his office.*
1994 Supreme Court rules RICO may be used to prosecute perpetrators of abortion clinic violence. •FACE Act passed, restricting protest activity near clinic entrances. •After circulating his “justifiable homicide” petition, Paul Hill murders abortion provider Dr. John Britton and his volunteer escort James Barrett, in Florida. His wife, June Barrett is wounded but survives.* •Dr. Gary Romalis shot at his home in British Columbia. •Republicans attain majority in Congress, move quickly to bar abortion coverage for federal employees, use of military hospitals for abortions, ban federal funding for abortions for prisoners, and cut off international family planning aid to agencies that provide abortion or abortion information. •Attorney General Janet Reno convenes grand jury to investigate clinic violence. •Medical Students for Choice founded.
1995 Two clinic employees, Shannon Lowey and Leanne Nichols, murdered in Brookline, MA. John Salvi arrested after shooting into a Norfolk VA clinic.* •Ohio bans abortions carried out by dilation and extraction method (“partial birth abortions”).
1996 Both houses of Congress take the unprecedented step of passing a bill that criminalizes the performance of abortion by a specific method, so called partial birth abortions. Legislation is vetoed by President Clinton and efforts to override veto fail; however, Congress and state legislatures continue attempts to ban this infrequently used method, properly called intact dilation and extraction. •FDA issues letter finding RU486 “approvable” but subsequent business and legal complications render US distribution plans unclear.
1998 Robert Sanderson, security guard killed and nurse Emily Lyons maimed by bomb in Birmingham AL. Eric Rudolph, after massive manhunt failed, captured and convicted of that and other violence.* •Dr. Barnett Slepian shot and killed in his home in Western NY while his family watched. James Kopp, implicated in Canadian shootings convicted after being extradited from France.*
2000 RU486 approved by FDA and available under the name Mifeprex.*
2000: Stenberg v. Carhart rules that the Nebraska statute banning so-called "partial-birth abortion" is unconstitutional for two independent reasons: the statute lacks the necessary exception for preserving the health of the woman, and the definition of the targeted procedures is so broad as to prohibit abortions in the second trimester, thereby being an "undue burden" on women. This effectively invalidates 29 of 31 similar statewide bans.
- Tietze C, Henshaw SK. Induced Abortion: A World Review, 1986. New York: The Guttmacher Institute, 1986