The National Abortion Federation (NAF) supports these three essential elements; accessible, safe, and legal abortions, that secure women’s rights and health. According to the NAF, since the mid-1800s, states have had different motives for making abortion illegal.
Medical procedures in the 1800s were perilous, and even the most respected doctors had a primitive medical education. Antiseptics were not yet in use, and hospitals were sparse. Due to these conditions, the death rate of both mother and child were high. Most women were forced to obtain an abortion from illegal back-alley practitioners, which more often than not resulted in death.
Illegalization did little to curb the number of women who sought the procedure. Estimates of illegal abortions were as high as 1.2 million per year. Between 1880-1973, a multitude of women had been harmed due untrained practitioners and the unsanitary conditions where the illegal abortions were performed. There was an influx of women treated in emergency rooms because of the serious medical issues caused by women trying to self-induce abortions and ill-trained doctors attempting to perform the procedure.
Between 1967-1973, a third of the states either reduced restrictions or abolished their criminal abortion laws. However, the right to have an abortion in all states did not occur until 1973 when the United States Supreme Court struck down the remaining state laws with its ruling on Roe v. Wade.
Jane Roe brought the case against the Texas law that made it illegal for a woman to have an abortion unless it was to save her life.
The case centered around 21-year-old Jane Roe, who was pregnant and wanted to have an abortion, but could not obtain the procedure safely or legally. Ultimately the U.S Supreme Court ruled that women should have the right to decide if they want children, as well as the right of the woman and her doctor to make that decision without interference from the state. The determination fell under the right to privacy guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision made it possible for women to receive safe and legal abortions from doctors that were well-trained. The result led to a significant drop in abortion-related injuries and deaths.
The infamous ruling of Roe v. Wade caused a firestorm across the nation. Protesters geared to disrupt abortion clinics held demonstrations displaying signs and harassing people who attempted to enter the facilities.
An escalation in crimes involving anti-abortion protesters increased with attacks including, but not limited to, bombing the clinics, physical violence, and murder. These unlawful acts made it unsafe for the providers and the women who sought to obtain the procedure.
While legal abortions have become more widely accepted over time, there does still exist a large population of pro-life advocates who continue to protect the life of the unborn.
Recently Texas lawmakers along with the governor enacted the most rigorous restrictions on abortion in the country. The Kansas City Star reported the new restrictions to be a farce under the guise that they would protect a woman’s health.
In 2013 Texas passed a law requiring all doctors providing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within a 30-mile radius. The law also required clinics to have hospital type surgical rooms with 240 square feet of floor space, and a minimum of a 14-foot space behind cabinets, shelves, and counters. Also required is a proper advanced heating and ventilation system and new piping and plumbing specifications.
Pro-choice advocates claim the regulations are farcical in nature because statistically, abortion is a procedure that is relatively safe. In Texas, between 2001-2012, there have been five related deaths, making the ratio one death in 144,000 abortions. Childbirth itself causes 14 times more death. A colonoscopy is ten times more likely to cause death than an abortion. Additionally, death from liposuction is 28 times greater.
Recently 22 of the 41 abortion clinics in Texas have been closed. Of the remaining facilities, only nine are expected to stay open if the new law is upheld.
The new restrictions and closings of Texas clinics may leave women once again in a desperate search for an alternative to obtaining an abortion.
By Tracy Blake
Edited by Cathy Milne
National Abortion Federation: History of Abortion
The Kansas City Star: Supreme Court ruling should limit senseless abortion laws
The American Prospect: Turning the Anti-Abortion Tide
Image Courtesy of Richard Gillin’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License