The history of abortion or termination of pregnancy in the United States is complicated, especially with many people wondering how the ruling went from Roe vs Wade to abortions being banned in some parts of the US. 

However, whichever side of the debate you are on, it is well worth knowing the history of legal abortions in the US. Here is a very brief summary of some of the key events in abortion laws in the United States.

This is where the history of American abortion law begins, with the formation of the American Medical Association (AMA). There were abortion clinics at this time, but the AMA believed that only members of the association could decide on whether or not to provide abortions, which was odd, as few of them had experience in either pregnancy or reproductive health. The result was that abortion would soon be criminalized.

Fast forward to just over 30 years later, and all states had the ability to restrict legal abortions, which they did. There were some exceptions, however, such as if the mother’s life was in danger from either being pregnant or carrying to full term. So, the stigma around it worsened.

Another 30 years later, the law had become more extreme, and by now, there were no exemptions for abortion, irrespective of the long-term physical or psychological damage to the mother that it could cause or if there were notable issues with the fetus. If the pregnancy was deemed to be so unsafe that the woman would die, then this was an acceptable reason for a termination.

1930 -1955
While there was no abortion law relating to this era, in 1930 alone, nearly 3,000 women in the US died by having illegal abortions performed, which prompted the push for change. There was a conference held in response to the growing number of illegal and fatal abortions. Hence, the aim of the conference was to get abortion reformed.

A landmark decade in abortion legalization, with the formation of the Association for The Study of Abortion, with the aim of making abortion accessible for everyone. Due to the increase in pressure on doctors and the government, in 1970, New York was the first state to legalize abortion, with the first Planned Parenthood center in Syracuse being opened.

This is the year most people remember, as it is the year that Roe vs Wade protected the rights to abortion in all states, giving women the right to choose whether or not they wanted to keep or end a pregnancy.

The Supreme Court allowed Congress to ban second-trimester abortions, as these were deemed to be in the best interests of most patients, thus overturning a core part of Roe vs Wade.

The six-week ban in Texas meant that after women were six weeks pregnant, they could no longer seek a termination. This was problematic, as most women do not realize they are pregnant prior to this.

The ‘Trigger Law’ imposed in Texas on the 25th of August 2022 in essence, prohibits all abortions in the state while imposing criminal penalties for doctors and healthcare providers who provide this service. Once again, this was seen as another blow to Roe vs Wade and is seen by many as unconstitutional.