Earlier this week, a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion indicating the high court would strip abortion protections at the federal level rocked the country as a final decision on the matter is expected within the next two months.
It’s unclear whether the opinion, reportedly written by Judge Samuel Alito in February and reported by Politico, will remain the final ruling in a Mississippi case that would effectively eliminate access to abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
But the issue has already begun to galvanize Democrats and abortion-rights supporters amid growing concern that other states may soon enact their own stricter laws.
Many Republicans have said they would support the draft ruling if it became final, overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade and would give states the authority to decide on access to abortion.
To better understand the historical events leading up to this moment, here are five things you need to know about the history of abortion in the United States:
Abortion was not illegal until the 19th century.
Abortion services were actually allowed during the 1800s, scholars and experts say, as long as they didn’t occur before the “rush” began, known as “the first movement of a fetus in the womb felt by the mother, for usually a little before birth. middle of the gestation period,” according to Merriam Webster.
“The law regarding abortion in the mid-nineteenth century in the United States followed the common law existing in England in all but a few states. Therefore, no prosecution would result from aborting a woman’s fetus before ‘speeding up,’” legal attorneys for the American Law Division wrote in a report to Congress in 2001.
“But, at the time of the Civil War, an influential anti-abortion movement began to affect legislation by inducing states to add or revise their statutes to ban abortion outright,” they added.
Leslie Reagan, author of “When Abortion Was a Crime,” wrote in her book that in 1880, except in cases to save a woman’s life, abortions were considered a crime, according to CNN.
Forty-nine states had anti-abortion laws on the books in 1910, according to attorneys at the American Law Division, while abortions were already considered judicially illegal in Kentucky.
It was classified as a felony in 49 states and Washington, DC in 1967.
The American Medical Association (AMA) pushed for abortion to be criminalized
The formation of the American Medical Association in the mid-19th century would play a major role in driving the criminalization of medical treatment.
In an 1859 report on abortion, the group equated abortion with the act of murder.
“We are the physical guardians of women; we, alone, until now, of their offspring in the womb. The case here is one of life or death, the life or death of thousands, and it depends almost entirely on ourselves,” the group wrote.
The organization also sought to prevent women from pursuing careers in obstetrics and gynecology and pushed for restrictions on abortion, according to CNN.
Reagan wrote that the AMA was “essentially anti-feminist,” the network noted.
Colorado: first state to liberalize abortion laws
Six years before the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which provided abortion protections at the federal level, Colorado was the first state to liberalize its abortion laws.
The law, signed in 1967, allowed abortions as long as a board of three hospital doctors approved the procedure. The law paved the way for other states to seek to amend their own health care laws, Denverite reported.
“There was none of this ‘It’s my body,'” former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm (D), who introduced the legislation as a first-year state representative in the House, told the Denverite. “I don’t know if he would have agreed to that at the time, and if he had, he certainly wouldn’t have said it.”
Legal attorneys for the American Law Division wrote that Colorado “relied on the Model Penal Code,” which has provisions that “permit abortion in cases other than those that only endanger the life of the mother.”
Roe vs. Wade
Just three years before the landmark decision, “Jane Roe,” an anonymous pregnant woman, filed a lawsuit against Texas over legislation that only allowed abortions if the mother’s life was at risk, according to The Washington Post.
The Supreme Court found the legislation unconstitutional, establishing abortion rights at the federal level for those seeking the services.
The Supreme Court wrote at the time that it “finds that the right to personal privacy includes the decision to have an abortion,” which was seen as a major court victory for the abortion rights community.
The ruling at the time also said that “it now seems doubtful that abortion has ever been firmly established as a common law offence, even with regard to the destruction of a speedy fetus.”
Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey
In this 1992 Supreme Court case, the justices weighed in on Pennsylvania’s abortion control law, which required a wife to notify her husband if she decided to have an abortion. The law also required a 24-hour waiting period and informed consent, even for minors who needed a parent’s approval, according to Oyez.
A new “undue burden” standard was developed through the high court’s ruling on state abortion laws, which means judges must determine whether state law has removed a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking abortion.” an abortion before the fetus reaches viability. Oyez points out.
However, the ruling upheld abortion protections at the federal level.