Timeline to Abortion

Margaret Sanger in the Early 1900’s

The issues surrounding birth control measures has involved legal decisions and laws dating back to the 16th century worldwide. Early legislators struggled to define the legality of abortion before and after quickening, when the mother starts to feel fetal movements. In the United States, from 1820 to 1900, most abortions were outlawed, primarily through the efforts of the American Medical Association physicians.

In 1916 Margaret Sanger, her sister Ethel Byrne, and Fonia Mindell opened the first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, N.Y. They distributed birth control, including also advice and information. All three women were arrested and jailed for violating the Comstock Act (1873), calling these materials obscene.

The law was later modified to permit physician-prescribed birth control.

Major changes in laws governing birth control and sex education in the U.S. subsequently occurred.

Ms. Sanger was a eugenist. Eugenics is a set of beliefs and practices that aims at improving the genetic quality of the human population. It is a social philosophy advocating improvement of human traits by promoting production for people with positive traits (positive eugenics) and decreasing rates of undesirable traits (negative eugenics).

Ms. Sanger was an outspoken negative eugenist who said such things as, “Give dysgenic groups (people with bad genes) in our population their choice of segregation or (compulsory) sterilization.” Also, “Birth control must lead ultimately to a cleaner race.”

Planned Parenthood Established

In the 1940’s, eugenist said and birth-controllers united to form Planned Parenthood.

In 1959 the American Law Institute (ALI) drafted a model state abortion law to make legal abortions accessible. The code advocated legalizing abortion for reasons including the mental or physical health of the mother, pregnancy due to rape and incest, and fetal deformity.

In 1967 Colorado established the first “liberalized” ALI-model abortion law in the U.S., passed also in California, Oregon, and North Carolina.

The first right-to-life organization formed the same year called The Virginia Society for Human Life followed by National Right to Life in 1968.

An opposing organization formed in 1969, The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). It is now called NARAL Pro-Choice America. It’s goal is to remove the cultural stigma on abortion, eliminate all meaningful legal restraints on it, and make it as widely available as possible across the nation and the globe.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, an OB-Gyn who performed abortions, along with his colleagues, co-founded NARAL. By his later revelations, they pursued dubious and in some cases straight forwardly dishonest strategies. For example, they claimed that the number of illegal abortions was more then ten times higher than it actually was. They promoted abortion as a medical issue not a moral one. They portrayed the Catholic Church as an oppressor, and sought to appeal to conservatives and liberals alike by promoting feticide as a way of fighting poverty.

Later, Dr. Nathanson converted to pro-life and produced the documentary film, “The Silent Scream” showing by ultrasound, in graphic detail, the killing of a twelve-week-old fetus via suction abortion. Earlier, viewing his first fetal ultrasound in the 1970’s his conscience was awakened to the fact that this image was a baby. He soon became convinced that human life existed in the womb from the onset of pregnancy, thus leading to his conversion from pro-choice to pro-life.

In 1970, New York allowed abortion on demand up to the 24th week of pregnancy.

By 1971 the US Supreme Court ruled its first case involving abortion upholding a District of Columbia law permitting abortion only to preserve a woman’s life of “health,”. Effectively allowing abortion for any reason.

By year’s end in 1971, 13 states had ALI-type law: 4 allowed abortion on demand; Mississippi, only for rape and incest; Alabama for the mother’s physical health. However, 31 states allowed abortion only to save the mother’s life.

Supreme Court Upholds ‘Right to Abortion’ in Roe v Wade

In 1973 the US Supreme Court ruled in Roe vs Wade, a “right of privacy” encompassed “a right to abortion” with a trimester scheme limiting abortion to the first and second trimester.

Since that time, legal issues surrounding abortion have included funding by federal or state entities, parental notification, regulations involving abortion clinics, fetal tissue (stem cell) and transplant research, abortifacients (inducing abortion by pill).

The most heinous abortion technique creating controversy is called partial birth abortion (intact dilation and extraction). It was introduced in 1992 by Martin Haskell at a National Abortion Foundation seminar. It involves delivering all but the head of a baby from the mother’s womb, piercing the skull, and suctioning out the brain, then completing delivery.

President Clinton vetoed bans on partial birth abortion repeatedly. He included plans to cover abortions in his massive health care plan. This continues to be an issue in our current government plan. He also provided 75 million dollars to Planned Parenthood, a primary provider of abortions. This also continues to be at issue today.

Abortion continues to be a source of substantial controversy. As stated by Mother Teresa in 1994, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast (in the presence of Hillary and Bill Clinton), “the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion.

Abortion is the deliberate termination of a pregnancy. How did such a thing become another form of birth control? One law at a time.

-Elizabeth Dean, D.O.

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