On January 22, 1973 the Supreme Court of the United States legalized abortion in the case of Roe v Wade. It was a dramatic day for women’s rights and for the health of millions of women who sought out abortion services.
Prior to this decision, abortion was illegal in most states. Despite that, many women still desired to abort their pregnancies so they resorted to dangerous and sometimes fatal “back alley abortions” performed by less-than-qualified “doctors.” As a result, thousands of women died from botched abortions and many more wound up in their local emergency rooms with serious complications.
Ultimately, a few states like New York and California made abortion legal and hundreds and thousands of women flocked to those states to obtain safe, legal abortions. But this situation obviously only benefited women who could afford to go to those states. Many more women continued to suffer.
Meanwhile, the Texas state legislature had passed a very restrictive abortion law and that law was challenged by a young woman named Norma McCorvey. To protect her anonymity, she used the name “Jane Roe” for her case. That case ultimately made its way to the Supreme Court where she prevailed.
In essence, the Court declared that abortion services should be available to women without restriction until the point of viability (approx 24 weeks). Suddenly, abortion clinics sprung up all across the country. Doctors who had witnessed personally the horrors of illegal abortion came forward to offer their services to the abortion clinics. Today, abortion is one of the safest medical procedures performed on women.
Despite its legality, abortion is one of the most controversial political issues this nation has ever confronted. The abortion procedure has been severely stigmatized and violence against abortion providers by anti-abortion terrorists has been rampant over the years. Indeed, several abortion doctors and clinic staff have been murdered by anti-abortion zealots.
Still, many abortion providers have remained stalwart and continue to offer their services to women. Today, a little over one million women obtain abortions every year.