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A Timeline of the Abortion Struggle

The following timeline focuses specifically on abortion history in the United States, and especially in the period since the early 1960s.

1791 The Bill of Rights, including the Fifth Amendment guaranteeing that the federal government would not deprive any person of "life, liberty or property without due process of law," was added to the U.S. Constitution. At this point there were no laws in any of the states regarding abortion. Abortion practices were governed by the English common-law concept of "quickening", the point at which a woman could detect fetal movement. Prior to quickening abortion was generally accepted.
1803 In Marbury vs. Madison, the U.S. Supreme Court established the principle of "judicial review", that is, that the Supreme Court could declare a law unconstitutional.
1821 Connecticut was the first state to enact a law restricting abortion.
1827 Karl Ernst von Baer discovered the mammalian ovum.
1857 Dr. Horatio Storer established a national drive by the American Medical Association (AMA) to end legal abortion. First trimester abortion at this point was in most states legal or a misdemeanor. By the end of the century abortion was illegal in all states with few exceptions (usually only to save the life of the mother).
1868 The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was added to bring states under the same restrictions as the federal government, that they could not "deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law." Although intended to provide legal recognition to the freed slaves, this amendment will be used both by those opposed to abortion, as well as by the U.S. Supreme Court when it strikes down abortion laws in 1973.
1876 German zoologist Oscar Hertwig discovered the mechanism of fertilization by the penetration of an ovum by a spermatozoon.
1916 Margaret Sanger opened a birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York, which developed into the Birth Control Federation of America, and eventually into Planned Parenthood, the largest killer of preborn human beings in the United States.
1936 Obstetrics and gynecology professor Frederick Taussig produced a volume which for decades was considered to be the authoritative reference work on abortion. In it he estimated 681,600 abortions per year in the US – with 8179 maternal deaths. Tossing later admitted that the data he used for these estimates was not reliable.
1942 The Birth Control Federation of America (founded by Margaret Sanger) became Planned Parenthood. In its early years Planned Parenthood opposed abortion, as one early Planned Parenthood brochure declared, "Abortion Is a Wrong Way to Limit Family Size." Today, however, Planned Parenthood is one of the largest promoters, and the largest provider, of abortions in the US.
1942 The introduction of penicillin (discovered in 1928) reduced the number of abortion-related maternal deaths by 90 percent.
Post-World War II Technologies developed during World War II helped control major Third World diseases, such as malaria, resulting in a "population explosion".
February 1952 Publication of an article by a British physician led to widespread use of amniocentesis.
1955 National conference on abortion was organized by Planned Parenthood. As a result, for the first time in the United States a group of elite physicians and other professionals collectively advocated reform of laws recognizing abortion a crime.
1957 Ultrasound machine was invented by the English physician Ian Donald and used the following year to observe a fetus in-utero.
1959 The American Law Institute proposed a model abortion liberalization law, referred to as the ALI Model Code, which it promoted as a model revision to states’ abortion laws. The ALI code would allow abortion if continuing the pregnancy would gravely impair the mental or physical health of the woman, the child was in danger of being born with grave physical or mental defects, or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.
1960 Mary Calderone, medical director of Planned Parenthood wrote: "Abortion is no longer a dangerous procedure. One can say, only 260 deaths [per year] from all types of abortion – that is a low mortality rate." (Of course, she was referring to abortion being no longer dangerous to the woman undergoing it, neglecting the fact that every abortion is fatally dangerous for the child being aborted.)
Late 1961 The drug thalidomide, used to treat sleeplessness and occasionally morning sickness, was found to be causing birth defects, with children being born with stubs or "flippers" for limbs.
June 3, 1962 A woman who died from an illegal abortion was cut into pieces and flushed down the toilet. The story became highly publicized.
July 1962 Sherri Finkbine, a children's television hostess, took medicine containing thalidomide. After becoming pregnant and then discovering that her medication contained thalidomide, she decided to abort her child. She was unsuccessful in obtaining an abortion here in the United States, although her efforts became highly publicized, and ended up going to Sweden where she aborted her child.
1963 The Society for Humane Abortion, the first pro-abortion organization to concentrate solely on abortion, was established in San Francisco. SHA challenged the law by openly providing information on abortion and contraception.
1963 The first surgery to be performed on a human fetus was done by Dr. A. William Lilly in Auckland, New Zealand, who performed a blood transfusion. (The first open surgery will be performed in 1981.)
1963-1965 About 20,000 babies were born in the U.S. with defects due to an epidemic of rubella (i.e. German measles).
1964 The Association for the Study of Abortion, the second pro-abortion organization to concentrate solely on abortion, was founded in New York.
1964-1967 Between 1964 and 1967 a number of prestigious professional associations passed resolutions favoring abortion reform, including the American Medical Association, the American Bar Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the California Medical Association, and the California Bar Association.
April 1965 Life magazine featured what were to become famous photographs by Lennart Nilson, taken over seven years both inside and outside the uterus, depicting the development of the preborn human being.
June 7, 1965 In Griswold vs. Connecticut the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws that made it illegal for married couples to use contraception. The decision was based on a "right to privacy" not stated in the Constitution, but considered to exist in the "penumbras" of the Constitution. This right to privacy would be used later as a precedent to strike down abortion laws.
Late 1960s The Women’s Liberation Movement, one goal of which was access to legal abortion.
1966 The National Organization for Women (NOW), a leading pro-abortion organization, was formed.
1966 MOMIS (Mothers Outraged at the Murder of Innocents), a Catholic group opposing abortion, was organized in California.
1966 Lawrence Lader’s book, Abortion, estimated approximately 1 million illegal abortions with 5,000-10,000 maternal deaths annually in U.S. (These were almost surely overestimates.)
1967 NOW adopted abortion as an issue at its annual convention.
1967 Demonstrators in favor of legal abortion were active at least as early as 1967, when they demonstrated outside the hotel where an abortion symposium was being held by the Harvard Divinity School and the Joseph P Kennedy Jr. foundation.
1967 The Virginia Society for Human Life was established to oppose abortion reform.
1967 In the New Jersey Supreme Court case Gleitman v. Cosgrove, the first "wrongful birth" lawsuit, after their baby was born deformed, parents sued the doctor for not warning them that their child could be born with deformities due to the mother having contracted rubella during pregnancy. They lost the case.
April 26, 1967 Colorado became the first state to liberalize its abortion laws according to the ALI code, followed the same year by North Carolina and then California (signed into law by then Governor Ronald Reagan). The ALI changes were limited, allowing abortions in cases of rape or other criminal intercourse, threat to the mother's life or health (including mental health), or likelihood of severe deformity in the child. However, the California screening process for abortions was loose enough that nearly anybody who had the money for it could obtain an abortion. Over the next few years (prior to Roe v. Wade), Georgia, Maryland, Arkansas, New Mexico, Kansas, Oregon, Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia and Florida (in that order) would enact ALI-type reforms to their abortion laws, and four states - Hawaii, Alaska, New York, Washington - would enact laws allowing abortion-on-demand.
May 1967 Howard Moody, a Baptist minister in Greenwich Village, formed the first formal abortion counseling service, the Clergy Counseling Service for Problem Pregnancies, which clandestinely directed women to abortionists. By 1968 there were approximately 1000 ministers of various churches involved in this effort.
June 1967 The American Medical Association adopted an ALI-like statement in favor of abortion law reform.
June 1967 National Conference of Catholic Bishops established the National Right to Life Committee.
Late 1960s First use of pictures of aborted fetuses.
1968 Carlo Valenti used chromosomal testing to make the first prenatal determination of Down Syndrome.
1968 Howard Moody and another minister, E. Spencer Parsons, who ran the abortion referral service in the Chicago area, succeeded in bringing about the passage of a resolution at the gathering of the American Baptist Convention stating that abortion should be "at the request of the individuals concerned."
1968 Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life formed.
1968 Birthright established to encourage and aid women who decided to have their babies under difficult circumstances.
1968 Suction aspiration method of abortion was demonstrated at an abortion conference sponsored by the Association for the Study of Abortion. By the early 1970s it had become the predominant method of first-trimester abortion instead of dilation and curettage.
1968 Zero Population Growth organized.
1969 Zero Population Growth took position in favor of repealing laws criminalizing abortion.
1969 The Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation, also known as the "Jane Collective", was established in Chicago. The Jane Collective had performed more than eleven thousand abortions by the time Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973.
1969 The National Association for Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL; name later changed to National Abortion Rights Action League) was formed as a result of the "First National conference on abortion laws: modification or repeal?" in Chicago, put on by the Association for the Study of Abortion. The name of the conference reflected the ongoing debate among abortion advocates at that time over whether abortion laws should be reformed or repealed altogether. The name NARAL was a clear enunciation of that organization's position in favor of repeal.
1969 In New York the pro-abortion feminist group Redstockings held "counter-hearings" to protest state legislative hearings on abortion reform, which they viewed as biased.
1969-1973 Hundreds of local protests demanding the legalization of abortion took place between 1969 and 1973.
September 1969 In People vs. Belous the California Supreme Court declared that state’s abortion law to violate both the federal and state constitutions. The court based its decision on the "right to privacy" that had been established in Griswold vs. Connecticut in 1965. The case underscored a large support in the medical community for legalized abortion, with a friend-of-the-court argument prepared in favor of abortion being signed by 178 medical school deans, including the heads of every medical school in the state.
November 10, 1969 In United States vs. Vuitch, a federal court declared the District of Columbia statute on abortion to be unconstitutional, which made Washington D.C. at least temporarily the only jurisdiction in United States with no statutory restriction on abortions by physicians. This was the first federal court decision declaring an abortion law unconstitutional. The Supreme Court reversed this decision in 1971.
1970 Prostaglandins developed, allowing abortions to be performed without surgery.
1970 The state of Washington held the country's first abortion initiative, in which voters approved a referendum legalizing abortion (for state residents only) through the 17th week of pregnancy. In its 1970 voters’ pamphlet, the League of Women Voters listed 22 statewide organizations that had formally endorsed Referendum 20, from the Washington Environmental Council to the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Only two groups were listed in opposition: The Voice for the Unborn and Catholics United for the Faith.
1970 Value of Life Committee formed in Massachusetts in response to the American Medical Association’s endorsement of abortion reform.
1970 Women and Their Bodies (later called Our Bodies, Our Selves) published, advocating women’s rights, including abortion rights.
1970 Chicago Women's Liberation Union activists participated in a demonstration in favor of abortion rights at the convention site of the AMA.
1970 In Illinois, a coalition organization called "Total Repeal of Illinois Abortion Laws" (TRIAL) was formed.
March 1970 In Detroit a "funeral march", protesting the deaths of woman killed by "back-alley abortionists", was held by women's liberation activists while the legislature debated abortion reform.
April 1970 New York enacted the most liberal abortion law in the nation (which went into effect in July), allowing abortion on demand within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. The New York law also had no residency requirement, so anyone anywhere in the country who could afford to make the trip to New York could abort her child. (Hawaii and Alaska had also passed extremely liberal abortion laws the same year, but with residency requirements.)
August 1970 Zero Population Growth set up a computerized telephone abortion referral service.
November 3, 1970 Washington state becomes the only state to legalize abortion by citizens' initiative.
1971 Dr. Jack Willke published the Handbook On Abortion.
1971 Americans United for Life founded.
January 29, 1971 In Doe vs. Scott a federal court held the Illinois abortion law unconstitutional, making abortion effectively legal in Illinois. Ten days later Cook County State's attorney appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court and won an injunction making abortion illegal again.
April 21, 1971 The Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s ruling in United States vs. Vuitch (November 10, 1969) and held the District of Columbia’s abortion law to be constitutional.
October 1971 Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation showed a docudrama film about a Down Syndrome baby who was starved to death in Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1970 because parents refused surgery to remove an intestinal obstruction. The doctor in charge of the case reported that in the previous five years at Johns Hopkins, at least four Down Syndrome children had died after parents refused consent for surgery.
1972 Americans Against Abortion formed.
1972 U.S. Coalition for Life formed.
1972 Feminists for Life of America formed.
1972 Voter initiatives were made to liberalize abortion laws in North Dakota and Michigan, the only states other than Washington that would vote on abortion by public referendum. Abortion opponents were not caught "off-guard" as in Washington and waged strong public education campaigns, and the measures were defeated.
1972 The Center for Disease Control reported that 24 women died in 1972, the year prior to Roe v. Wade, from causes associated with legal abortions and 39 from causes associated with illegal abortions.
March 22, 1972 Equal Rights Amendment passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification, with a deadline for ratification of March 22, 1979 – later extended to June 30, 1982. Although the amendment did not mention abortion, many opposed to abortion feared that it would nevertheless be used to legalize abortion.
November 1972 Maude had an abortion on a highly controversial episode of the TV series Maude.
End of 1972 By year's end a total of 13 states had enacted an ALI-type abortion law reform: Colorado (enacted 4/26/67), North Carolina (enacted 5/8/67), California (encacted 6/16/67), Georgia (enacted 3/26/68), Maryland (enacted 5/7/68), Arkansas (enacted Feb. 1969), New Mexico (enacted 3/22/69, effective 6/22/69), Kansas (enacted 4/25/69, effective 7/1/69), Oregon (enacted 5/23/69, effective 8/23/69), Delaware (enacted June 1969), South Carolina (enacted 1/29/70), Virginia (enacted 4/11/70) and Florida (enacted 4/12/72). Four states - Hawaii (enacted 3/11/70), New York (enacted 4/11/70, effective 7/1/70), Alaska (enacted 4/30/70), Washington(enacted 11/3/70) - had enacted laws allowing abortion-on-demand. Mississippi allowed abortion for rape and incest (May 8, 1966), while Alabama allowed abortion to protect the mother's physical health (1968). The remaining 31 states allowed abortion only to save the mother's life. Attempts to liberalize abortion laws had failed in numerous states, including at least Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.
January 22, 1973 The United States Supreme Court handed down the two landmark decisions which effectively legalized abortion throughout the United States: Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. The Court famously declined to determine when life begins", stating, "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer." It also declined to define preborns as persons, and therefore declined to afford them the rights, including the right to life, contained in the 5th and 14th Amendments. Instead they based their decision on the right to privacy that had been determined to be in the "penumbras" of the Constitution in the Griswold vs. Connecticut decision of 1965. In Roe v. Wade the Court divided pregnancy into three trimesters. The states were not allowed to regulate abortion during the first trimester. The states could regulate abortion during the second trimester only to protect the health of the woman obtaining the abortion. The states were allowed to restrict or prohibit abortion during the third trimester, after viability had presumably been reached, but had to allow for exceptions for the life or health of the mother. The companion decision, Doe v. Bolton, defined a woman’s health to include "physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age". These decisions surprised even the most ardent abortion supporters, effectively legalizing abortion throughout the entire term of pregnancy. A wide range of groups had filed friend-of-the-court briefs in favor of legal abortion in these cases (Planned Parenthood, California Committee to Legalize Abortion, National Organization for Women, Zero Population Growth, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Psychiatric Association, American Women’s Medical Association, and New York Academy of Medicine), whereas only a few briefs were filed in opposition to abortion (Americans United for Life, the National Right to Life Committee, and the attorneys general of Arizona, Connecticut, Kentucky, Nebraska and Utah).
Early 1973 In response to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision received a deluge of letters criticizing the decisions. Several states passed resolutions asking Congress to pass a constitutional amendment banning abortion. A letter writing campaign was initiated to congressmen and senators. A petition campaign was started to urge Congress to pass a human life amendment.
1973 Four versions of a human life amendment were proposed: Hogan amendment, January 30; Whitehurst amendment, March 13; Buckley amendment, May 31; Burke amendment, September 12. Similar amendments have been proposed every year since.
1973 Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights (now called the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice) created.
1973 A graphic slideshow depicting horrors of illegal abortion made available by NARAL for use by activists in media appearances.
April 1973 Abortionist Xavier Hall Ramirez in Bakersfield, California instructed nurses "not to give the infant any subsistive care and to turn the oxygen off" when a premature baby survived a saline abortion. Ramirez was charged with solicitation to commit murder.
May 14, 1973 National Right to Life Committee formally incorporated with thirty state affiliates.
October 1973 Campaign against abortion launched by Americans Against Abortion was the first initiated by a Protestant organization.
October 2, 1973 Illinois Supreme Court ruled that a preborn child after viability is a person for purposes of the Wrongful Death Act, which allowed damages for the death of a viable fetus as a result of injuries negligently inflicted.
1974 Reproductive Rights Freedom Project begun by ACLU.
January 1974 First annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.
February 15, 1975 Boston doctor Kenneth Edelin found guilty of murder after a hysterotomy at twenty-four weeks. He had disconnected the fetus from the placenta and then waited for the fetus to die before removing it. The prosecution claimed that once the fetus was disconnected from the placenta it was a person and should have been protected. The conviction was reversed on appeal on December 17, 1976.
August 1975 The first significant sit-in by abortion protesters took place at the Sigma Reproductive Health Services Clinic in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Rockville, Maryland.
December 19, 1975 John Paul Stevens appointed to U.S. Supreme Court. Voted to uphold the "essential holding" of Roe v. Wade in Casey (1992).
1976 C. Everett Koop wrote The Right to Live; The Right to Die, which argued against abortion and euthanasia.
1976 The Republican Party included opposition to abortion as a plank in its party platform, and has continued to do so to the present. The Democratic Party did not include a definitive abortion plank, but did state that the Constitution should not be amended to overturn Roe v. Wade.
March 1976 The first documented attack against an abortion clinic took place at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Eugene, Oregon, where a man named Joseph Stockett set fire to the building.
July 1, 1976 In Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth the Supreme Court struck down state statutes requiring husband’s consent or blanket parental consent, and those prohibiting saline infusion abortions. It upheld recordkeeping requirements and the requirement to obtain written consent from the woman.
September 30, 1976 A rider referred to as the "Hyde Amendment", attached to the federal spending bill, was passed by Congress prohibiting federal funds to be used for abortion. Each year since then, the Hyde Amendment has been attached to the annual federal spending bill, although exceptions for rape, incest, and "severe and physical health damage" to the mother have been added or removed.
December 17, 1976 The manslaughter conviction of abortionist Edelin was overturned by the Massachusetts Superior Judicial Court, which ruled that legal abortions were manslaughter only if the baby was definitely alive outside the mother's body.
1977 John O'Keefe, the "Father of Rescue", created the Pro-Life Nonviolent Action Project.
1977 National Abortion Federation formed.
March 2, 1977 A baby was born alive as the result of a saline abortion performed at approximately 29 weeks gestation by Dr. William Waddill, Jr. When the baby was determined to be alive, Dr. Waddill reportedly killed the baby. Waddill was charged with murder but was acquitted by a hung jury.
June 20, 1977 In Maher v. Roe, Beal v. Doe, and Poelker v. Doe the Supreme Court declared that states and cities may refuse to pay for abortions and to offer abortions as a public hospital service.
1978 Stem cells discovered in human umbilical cord blood.
February 1, 1978 First bombing of abortion clinic: Women for Women Clinic, Cincinatti, Ohio.
July 25, 1978 Louise Joy Brown, the world's first successful "test-tube baby", was born in Great Britain.
December 27, 1978 In the Becker v. Shwartz "wrongful birth" case the New York State Court of Appeals found in favor of a couple who gave birth to a Down Syndrome baby and who sued the doctor who had failed to inform them that older pregnant women run a heightened risk of delivering a baby with Down Syndrome.
1979 Francis A. Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop produced Whatever Happened to the Human Race? , a book and series of films that served as a rallying cry to evangelical Christians, who up to that point had had little involvement in the abortion controversy.
1979 The Moral Majority was formed by Jerry Falwell. The Moral Majority mixed opposition with abortion with other issues that were considered to be "sinful".
1979 Bernard Nathanson, former abortionist who helped found NARAL and who had changed position to oppose abortion, wrote Aborting America.
January 9, 1979 In Colautti v. Franklin the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law requiring late-term abortions to be performed in the manner most likely to produce a live birth.
July 2, 1979 In Bellotti v. Baird the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parental consent laws that did not include a judicial bypass mechanism.
1980s Use of ultrasound in pregnancies became common.
1980 Direct-action group Pro-Life Action League formed by Joseph Scheidler.
1980 The Democratic Party included a plank in support of abortion in its platform, which has continued to present.
March 1980 Weekly sit-ins at St. Luis abortion clinics were the first regular, persistent anti-abortion direct action in the country. Soon they were drawing crowds of over 200 supporters and typically entailed 25 to 40 arrests.
April 1980 RU-486 (mifepristone) developed in French laboratory.
April 1980 Archbishop John May criticized the St. Louis sit-ins for breaking the law. Numbers participating in sit-ins diminished.
June 30, 1980 In Harris v. McRae the Supreme Court upheld the Hyde amendment as constitutional, stating that federal or state governments are not required to fund abortions.
December 1980 Debate over whether to pursue a human life constitutional amendment outlawing abortion, Senator Warren Hatch’s constitutional amendment returning control of abortion to the states (ie, overruling Roe v. Wade), or Sentor Jesse Helms’ Human Life Bill (not involving a constitutional amendment) divided the anti-abortion movement.
December 30, 1980 Whatever Happened to the Human Race aired on Washington, D.C.’s ABC affiliate.
1981 Dr. Michael R. Harrison performed the first open surgery on a fetus, correcting a urinary tract obstruction.
February 1981 Cincinnati Right to Life started campaign of showing anti-abortion ads on TV.
March 1981 Second year of weekly sit-ins began in St. Louis.
June 18, 1981 New England Journal of Medicine reported that abortionist Thomas Kerenyi had perfomed a selective abortion on one of two twins, the first time this had been done in the U.S. and the second time in the world. (It had been done once previously in Sweden.)
August 2, 1981 Philadelphia Inquirer four-page article, "The Dreaded Complication," reported that the Center for Disease Control estimated between 400-500 live births annually in the U.S. resulting from attempted abortions.
September 7, 1981 National Right to Life News reported on two people arrested while protesting at an abortion clinic in Wilmington, "adding Delaware to the list of about 18 states and the District of Columbia that have seen non-violent direct action to save lives of unborn children."
September 21, 1981 Hatch Amendment introduced. The Hatch Amendment would have returned to the states the power to restrict abortion.
September 24, 1981 New York Times article reported that 72 groups opposing abortion repudiated the Hatch plan, that would return to the states the authority to prohibit abortion, insisting on a further-reaching Human Life Amendment that would outlaw abortion.
September 25, 1981 Sandra Day O’Connor appointed to U.S. Supreme Court. Voted to uphold the "essential holding" of Roe v. Wade in Casey (1992).
1982 American Life League formed. In the mid-1980s, ALL endorsed direct action, while the National Right to Life Committee disassociated itself from it.
January 11, 1982 In Nyberg v. City of Virginia the U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling which ruled that the Virginia, Minnesota hospital could not forbid doctors from performing abortions. The lower court had reasoned that, because the nearest abortion facility was 63 miles away, such a ban would result in a woman being "unduly burdened" in choosing an abortion.
February 1982 Workmen repossessing a storage container in the backyard of medical pathologist Melvin Weisberg in Santa Monica, California were horrified at discovering the remains of thousands of preborns inside. Eventually over 16,000 dead preborns were discovered. After three and a half years of court battles the preborns were buried without special services.
April 15, 1982 Six-day-old Down Syndrome baby, "Baby Doe", died from starvation in Bloomington, Indiana hospital because his parents refused to have corrective surgery to his esophagus or to feed him intravenously.
June 30, 1982 The Equal Rights Amendment died with the failure of enough states to ratify it before the deadline.
August 1982 Abortionist Hector Zevallos and wife abducted by "Army of God" for eight days.
September 1982 Senator Helms’ Human Life Bill died in the US. Senate, blocked by a filibuster.
1983 Ronald Reagan became the first president to publish an article on abortion, "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation".
1983 International Fetal Medicine and Surgery Society formed.
1983 Intact dilation and extraction (a.k.a. "Partial-birth abortion") was developed by Dr. James McMahon.
1983 Nova episode "Miracle of Life" described development in the womb.
January 26, 1983 The Hatch-Eagleton Amendment (abbreviated version of original Hatch Amendment), the only human life amendment to reach a floor vote, is introduced to Congress.
June 15, 1983 In City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health the Supreme Court struck down laws requiring 24-hour waiting period, hospitalization for second trimester abortions, and informed consent (requiring the woman to be told about medical risks, fetal development, and alternatives to abortion). New Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor criticized the trimester approach and proposed an "undue burden" test instead. The undue burden test would require that abortion laws not place an "undue burden" on women seeking abortions (at least prior to viability).
June 15, 1983 In Planned Parenthood of Kansas City, Missouri v. Ashcroft and Simopolous v. Virginia (companion rulings to Akron) the Supreme Court upheld parental consent with judicial bypass and the requirement that a second doctor be present if the abortion is performed after viability.
June 28, 1983 Hatch-Eagleton amendment defeated with only 49 of the needed 67 (two thirds) votes in the Senate.
1984 John Ryan started the Pro-Life Direct Action League.
1984 Thirty bombings or arsons of abortion clinics in the U.S. – the most of any year.
1984 President Reagan cut off funding to the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities.
1984 The first comprehensive textbook on prenatal treatment: The Unborn Patient: Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatment.
August 6-14, 1984 International Conference on Population in Mexico City. The resulting Mexico City Declaration did not specifically mention abortion, but did state, "Major efforts must be made now to ensure that all couples and individuals can exercise their basic human right to decide freely, responsibly and without coercion, the number and spacing of their children and to have the information, education and means to do so."
April 10, 1984 Bill mandating abortion coverage in all health insurance policies sold in the U.S. failed in Congress.
May 30, 1984 Reproductive Health Equity Act introduced in Congress to require federally funded programs to cover abortion. The bill died, but was reintroduced in 1988 and succeeding years.
June 17, 1984 The Reagan Administration announces the "Mexico City Policy," denying funds to foreign organizations that "perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations."
August 1984 The National Right to Life Educational Trust launched a national television campaign to bring the facts of abortion into people's homes. The thirty-second ads were broadcast in at least 18 states.
October 9, 1984 Child Abuse Amendment of 1984 (a.k.a. "Baby Doe Bill") signed into law, which defined the withholding of medically indicated treatment as child abuse. Required states receiving federal child abuse funds (all but 7 states) to establish procedures to prevent "withholding of medically indicated treatment from disabled infants with life-threatening conditions."
December 1984 The Silent Scream was released showing a sonogram of a baby being aborted.
1985 Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion published by Joseph Scheidler.
March 1985 NARAL launched the "Silent No More" campaign in which they claimed to collect about 40,000 letters from women describing their abortions and staged "speak-outs" in 36 states in which the letters were read.
November 11, 1985 Pro-abortion episode, "The Clinic", of the Cagney & Lacey TV series.
November 23, 1985 Pamela Rae Stewart gave birth to a brain-dead son, Thomas Travis Edward Monson, and was charged with failing to provide medical treatment for her unborn child. She was accused of ignoring the advice of doctors to refrain from taking illegal drugs during pregnancy, failing to seek immediate medical attention when she began to hemorrhage, and failing to take certain other doctor-recommended precautions for the sake of her unborn baby. The charges were eventually dismissed.
1986 Operation Rescue founded by Randall Terry under the slogan, "If you believe abortion is murder, act like it's murder." The organization focused primarily on sit-ins, which it referred to as "rescues". More than 40,000 people were arrested during Operation Rescue’s demonstrations over the first four years.
January 28, 1986 The U.S. Senate added language to exclude abortion rights from the proposed Civil Rights Restoration Act which specified that recipients of federal funds must comply with civil rights laws in all areas. The bill subsequently became law.
June 1986 The National Organization for Women filed suit against Joseph Scheidler, the Pro-Life Action League, and others in NOW v. Scheidler. (Operation Rescue was added later.) The final decision would come 20 years later.
June 9, 1986 In Bowen v. American Hospital Association the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s decision to strike down "Baby Doe" laws, ruling that parents could deny treatment to newborns with life threatening conditions.
June 11, 1986 In Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Pennsylvania law requiring informed consent (about fetal development and risks of abortion), reporting on 2nd and 3rd trimester abortions, usage of the method most likely to result in live birth if the fetus is viable, and requirement that a 2nd physician be present for post-viability abortions. Chief Justice Warren Burger joined the anti-Roe dissenters, writing, "If Danforth and today's holdings really mean what they seem to say, I agree we should re-examine Roe."
September 26, 1986 Antonin Scalia appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Voted to overturn Roe v. Wade in Casey (1992).
1987 Robert H. Bork nominated for Supreme Court. Unlike many other nominees, Bork had an extensive record of denunciations of Roe, which led, in large part, to his rejection by the Senate.
August 22, 1987 Third annual Americans Against Abortion rally in Washington, D.C. 10,000 attendees estimated by National Right to Life News.
1988 A federal appeals court upheld an injunction against Advocates for Life demonstrations against a Portland, Oregon abortion clinic.
February 18, 1988 Anthony M. Kennedy appointed to U.S. Supreme Court. Voted to uphold the "essential holding" of Roe v. Wade in Casey (1992).
March 1988 Reagan Administration moratorium on new federally funded fetal tissue transplant research.
May 2, 1988 Operation Rescue's first rescue operation at Herbert Schwartz' clinic in New York City. Over the course of 4 days, 1,600 protesters were arrested.
September 23, 1988 RU-486 approved in France.
October 28-29, 1988 Operation Rescue demonstration in San Francisco involved more than 4,500 protesters and 2,600 arrests.
1989 Freedom of Choice Act first introduced to Congress; has not made it out of committee to a floor vote yet.
April 3, 1989 Time magazine reported on aborted fetal tissue used to treat a fetus with an immune problem.
April 9, 1989 March for Women’s Equality/Women’s Lives, a rally and march demanding abortion rights organized by the National Organization for Women, attracted 300,000 attendees according to some media reports.
July 3, 1989 In Webster v. Reproductive Health Services the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Missouri law requiring viability testing after 20 weeks and prohibiting use of public facilities or public funds for abortions. The case drew a record 78 amicus curiae ("friend of the court") briefs, 45 of which opposed abortion. Three of the justices in the court's majority — Rehnquist, White and Kennedy — recommended revisiting the Roe decision, while Justice Antonin Scalia suggested that the court overturn Roe. Justice Blackmun wrote that "a chill wind blows" for abortion rights. Kate Michelman of NARAL stated, "this is without doubt the most serious threat to reproductive choice in America in decades."
August 28, 1989 Time magazine article reported women learning "menstrual extraction", a type of suction abortion that could be performed at home, in case abortion was illegalized.
1990 Moral Majority disbanded.
1990 Over 1.6 million abortions in the United States – the highest in any year since Roe v. Wade.
June 25, 1990 In Hodgson v. Minnesota and Ohio v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parental consent without judicial bypass, but upheld it with judicial bypass.
July 1-4, 1990 "Abortion and the Media," a four-part Los Angeles Times series by David Shaw, documented the widespread media bias in favor of abortion.
August 1990 American Bar Association rescinded its position in favor of abortion.
October 9, 1990 David H. Souter appointed to U.S. Supreme Court. Voted to uphold the "essential holding" of Roe v. Wade in Casey (1992).
January 26, 1991 Utah governor signed into law a measure to prohibit abortions except when there was "grave damage to the pregnant woman’s medical health", the child would be born with "grave defects", or in cases of rape or incest. The law thus posed a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.
May 23, 1991 In Rust v. Sullivan the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the "gag rule", allowing federal government to withhold funds if a recipient of federal funds counsels or refers women for abortion.
October 23, 1991 Clarence Thomas appointed to U.S. Supreme Court. Voted to overturn Roe v. Wade in Casey (1992).
1992 Graphic pictures of aborted fetuses were first broadcast in campaign ads by various candidates running for office.
June 29, 1992 In Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey the U.S. Supreme Court upheld informed consent about fetal development and risks to mother (effectively overruling the Akron and Thornburgh decisions), 24-hour waiting periods, collection of abortion statistics, and parental consent which included a judicial bypass mechanism. It struck down a spousal consent requirement. The "essential holdings" of Roe v. Wade were upheld, but the trimester system was replaced with the "undue burden" criteria. Failure to overturn Roe v. Wade has been attributed to Justice Kennedy taking unexpected stance in support of it. Justices O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter, Stevens and Blackmun voted to uphold the essential holdings of Roe, while Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, White and Thomas voted to overturn Roe.
September 13, 1992 An abortion technique, "dilation and extraction" (a.k.a. "intact dilation and evacuation"), described by abortionist Martin Haskell at a National Abortion Federation seminar. The technique, later commonly referred to as "partial-birth abortion", involved the abortionist delivering all but the head of a baby from the mother's womb, piercing the skull and suctioning out the brain to kill the baby, and then completing the delivery/abortion.
January 1993 Clinton rescinded the Bush limitations on funding organizations that advise pregnant women of abortion as an option, directed regulators to reassess the ban on importation of RU-486, permitted abortions at overseas military hospitals at the patient's expense, promised to restore funding for U.N. Health organizations dealing with international birth control even though they promoted abortion (i.e., he overturned the "Mexico City Policy"), and removed the ban on federal financing of fetal tissue research.
January 13, 1993 In Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic the U.S. Supreme Court held that a 122-year-old reconstruction statute forbidding the deprivation of civil rights by private organizations did not to apply to protesters who blocked abortion clinics.
March 10, 1993 Abortionist David Gunn shot to death outside his clinic in Pensacola, Florida by Michael F. Griffin. He was the first person to be killed by an anti-abortionist activist.
June 18, 1993 Demonstrations against RU-486 at sites across the United States.
August 1993 Abortionist George Tiller shot in both arms outside his clinic in Wichita, Kansas by Rochelle "Shelley" Shannon of Oregon.
August 10, 1993 Ruth Bader Ginsburg appointed to U.S. Supreme Court. Definite position in favor of abortion.
September 1993 Congress rewrote the "Hyde Amendment" to include Medicaid funding for abortions in cases where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. The present version of the Hyde Amendment requires coverage of abortion in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the woman’s life.
November 20, 1993 Bill Clinton’s health care reform bill, which would have covered abortions, presented to Congress. The bill never made it to a vote.
1994 Methotrexate was introduced as a medical abortion method (i.e., not requiring surgery). Since it had already been approved by the FDA for chemotherapy, it did not face the hurdles that RU-486 faced.
May 1994 Congress passed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), which made it a federal crime to "injure, intimidate or interfere with" a person providing reproductive health services. FACE’s stiff penalties resulted in a virtual halt to blockading abortion clinics.
June 30, 1994 In Madsen v. Women's Center Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court allowed judges to create buffer zones to keep demonstrators away from abortion clinics.
July 24, 1994 Pensacola abortionist John B. Britton and his bodyguard, James H. Barrett, killed by Paul Hill. (2nd and 3rd people to be killed by an anti-abortion activist)
August 3, 1994 Steven G. Breyer appointed to U.S. Supreme Court.
September 1994 Universal health care bill declared "dead" by George Mitchell.
September 5-13, 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, the largest intergovernmental conference on population and development, with 180 countries participating, held in Cairo Egypt, resulting in a 20-year Programme of Action. The conference was the beginning of the United Nations Population Fund, and took a stand in favor of "reproductive rights".
November 1994 Election results: Republicans took control of both the Senate and, for the first time since 1954, the House.
December 30, 1994 Two receptionists were shot to death and five other persons wounded in separate attacks within ten minutes of each other at two abortion clinics in Brooklyn, Massachusetts by John C. Salvi III. (4th and 5th people to be killed by an anti-abortion activist.)
June 1995 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act introduced in Congress.
April 1996 Clinton vetoes partial-birth abortion ban (first time).
October 1997 Clinton vetoes partial birth abortion (second time). By the autumn of 1997, state versions of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act had been adopted by twenty-one state legislatures. In four states the bans were blocked by a governor's veto, restrictions had gone into effect in six states, and in the eleven remaining states court challenges had at least temporarily prevented full implementation of the laws.
1998 First embryonic stem cell line derived by James Thompson and coworkers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
1998 Bill introduced in Congress to ban human cloning. Similar bills were also introduced in 2001, 2004 and 2007, but have failed each time.
January 29, 1998 Security guard Robert Sanderson killed when abortion clinic was bombed by Robert Rudolph. (6th person killed by an anti-abortion activist)
February 12, 1998 The Child Custody Protection Act, which makes it a federal crime to transport a minor girl across state lines to obtain an abortion with the intent of circumventing the parental involvement law of the girl's home state, introduced to Congress. Neither it nor the similar Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, introduced in 2005, have become law.
April 1998 District court finds Scheidler, Operation Rescue, et. al. guilty of racketeering in NOW v. Scheidler. The decision will eventually be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 and 2006.
October 23, 1998 Abortionist Barnett Slepian shot and killed by James Koop. (7th person killed by an anti-abortion activist)
September 1999 Famous photo in USA Today of 21-week fetus grabbing the hand of a doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee who is performing prenatal surgery on it.
March 8, 2000 ABC's 20/20 aired a documentary describing how people were profiting from the trafficking of fetal body parts.
June 28, 2000 In Stenberg v. Carhart the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Nebraska statute banning partial-birth abortion was unconstitutional. (Compare Gonzalez v. Carhart, 2007)
September 28, 2000 Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone (RU-486) for abortions in very early pregnancy.
January 2001 Mexico City Policy reinstated by President Bush.
August 2001 President Bush limits federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to already-established stem cell lines.
September 11, 2001 The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon captured the attention of Americans, but killed fewer people than die every day in abortion facilities in the United States.
November 1, 2001 The journal Blood reported on multipotent adult progenitor cells found in adult bone marrow that hold out the possibility, like embryonic stem cells, to grow into any kind of body tissue.
August 2002 Southern Medical Journal published a report finding that post-abortive women had higher mortality rates than women who did not have abortions.
August 5, 2002 Born Alive Infants Protection Act signed into law to establish the rights of a baby that survives an attempted abortion.
December 24, 2002 California resident Laci Peterson, 7 1/2 months pregnant, reported missing. Husband Scott Peterson later charged with 1st degree murder for her death and 2nd degree murder for the death of their son, Conner.
February 26, 2003 In Scheidler v. NOW (previously NOW v. Scheidler) the Supreme Court determined that abortion protests were not covered by RICO racketeering laws. (Final decision in 2006.)
March 26, 2003 An Erie County, Pennsylvania jury found Corinne Wilcott, 21, guilty of third-degree murder for killing an unborn baby by kicking the child's mother in the stomach during a fight. She was charged under Pennsylvania's 1998 Crimes Against the Unborn Child Act.
May 9, 2003 A baby survived a late-term (30-week) abortion in Valdosta, Georgia. The abortionist, Charles Rossman, fled the scene after giving the mother pills to induce the abortion, locking the doors from the outside so the woman could not get out. Emergency personnel had to break the doors down to get to the woman and then issued an arrest for Dr. Rossman, who was never found.
November 5, 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act signed into law. Federal court temporary injunctions were obtained to prevent the law from being enforced.
January 23, 2004 Weldon Amendment went into effect which prohibited the patenting of human embryos, making it more difficult for biotech firms to profit from attempts to create human embryos by cloning.
February 13, 2004 A team of South Korean researchers reported in the journal Science that it had created a cloned human embryo from which it derived stem cells. The claim was later discredited (February 2006).
April 1, 2004 Unborn Victims of Violence Act (a.k.a. "Laci and Conner’s Law"), which penalizes the harming of unborn children during the commission of violent federal crimes, signed into law.
April 5, 2004 The California Supreme Court upheld the double murder conviction of a man under the Fetal Homicide Law who had shot a pregnant woman to death and then argued that he had not known she was pregnant. Harold Taylor was convicted of two counts of murder in the 1999 shooting deaths of Patty Fensler and her 11-week to 13-week-old unborn child.
April 25, 2004 Pro-abortion "March for Women's Lives" in Washington, D.C. has been claimed to be the largest march ever in Washington. Estimates ranged from 500,000 to over 1 million in attendance.
May 20, 2004 Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, which would require abortionists to inform a woman undergoing an abortion after 20 weeks that the fetus can feel pain, first introduced to Congress. The measure has been reintroduced in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011.
February 10, 2005 The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act introduced to Congress. Similar to the Child and Custody Protection Act which was introduced in 1998, making it illegal to transport a minor across state lines to circumvent parental notification laws. Neither act has become law.
June 16, 2005 An amendment to enact a barrier to human cloning in the United States was rejected by the Appropriations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.
July 2005 Michael Bay’s science-fiction movie "The Island". Its implied anti-abortion message was widely recognized.
September 29, 2005 John G. Roberts appointed to U.S. Supreme Court.
January 31, 2006 Samuel Alito appointed to U.S. Supreme Court.
February 28, 2006 In its final decision on Scheidler v. NOW the United States Supreme Court held that abortion protesters could not be held liable under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
July 19, 2006 Fetus Farming Prohibition Act signed into law, prohibiting the creation of embryos or fetuses specifically for use as a source of cells or tissue.
October 24, 2006 The world’s youngest premature baby to survive (at that time), Amillia Taylor, was born at 21 weeks, 6 days gestation. She measured 9 ½ in long, and weighed just under 10 oz. (superceded by Frieda Mangold, November 2010)
November 7, 2006 Article in Cytotherapy announced that umbilical stem cells had been transformed into a lung cell.
March 27, 2007 ERA (also called "Women's Equality Amendment") reintroduced to Congress (last voted on in 1983).
April 18, 2007 In Gonzalez v. Carhart the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortions.
June 2007 Amnesty International adopts pro-abortion policy: "to support the decriminalization of abortion, to ensure women have access to health care when complications arise from abortion and to defend women’s access to abortion, within reasonable gestational limits, when their health or human rights are in danger."
November 2007 Teams led by Shinya Yamanaka and James Thomson reported that they had genetically modified human skin cells to behave like embryonic stem cells.
November 2008 Colorado voters voted down an amendment to establish fetal personhood, the first attempt to amend a state's constitution to establish personhood for preborns from conception onward. (As of the date of this timeline, no state has enacted a fetal personhood law.)
January 23, 2009 In a presidential memorandum, President Obama repealed the so-called "global gag order" (or "Mexico City policy"), that had prevented U.S. funding for international family planning groups that offer advice on or perform abortions.
May 10, 2009 For the first time since Gallup began asking (in 1995), more Americans called themselves "pro-life" than "pro-choice". (Although they tied in 2001 at 46% each.) However, in every year since Gallup began asking (in 1994), a majority of Americans have said that abortion should be "illegal in all circumstances" or "legal only in a few circumstances", rather than "legal under any circumstances" or "legal under most circumstances".
May 31, 2009 Abortionist George Tiller shot and killed by Scott Roeder. (8th and most recent person killed by an anti-abortion activist)
August 8, 2009 Sonia Sotomayor appointed to U.S. Supreme Court.
October 2009 Researchers at the Salk Institute announced that they successfully reprogrammed cord blood cells to function like embryonic stem cells.
March 23, 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. "Obamacare") signed into law.
March 24, 2010 President Obama signed an Executive Order stating that federal funds will not pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life.
April 13, 2010 Nebraska became the first state to pass the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (took effect October 15), prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks gestation on the basis of the pain abortion causes to the fetus.
August 7, 2010 Elena Kagan appointed to U.S. Supreme Court.
November 2010 The world’s youngest premature baby, German baby Frieda Mangold, survived after being born at 21 weeks, 5 days gestation.
May 4, 2011 No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act passed in the House of Representatives. Has not been passed in the Senate.
September 16, 2011 Ban on patenting human embryos enacted into law.
October 13, 2011 Patient Protection and Affordable Care amended to prohibit federal funds from covering abortion except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life.
November 8, 2011 Fetal personhood amendment defeated by voters in Mississippi.
February 23, 2012 Article published in Journal of Medical Ethics, "After-Birth Abortion – Why Should the Baby Live?", argued that killing of infants after birth should be allowed in the same situations where abortion is allowed.
April 30, 2012 Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a ballot initiative for fetal personhood, declaring it "void on its face" because it was "clearly unconstitutional".
May 1, 2012 Georgia enacted a law banning abortions after 20 weeks due to the fetus's ability to feel pain (commonly referred to as a Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act), joining Nebraska (4/13/10, effective 10/15/10), Indiana (1/22/11, effective 7/1/11), Kansas (4/12/11), Idaho (4/14/11), Oklahoma (4/20/11), Arizona (4/12/11), and Alabama (6/15/11).

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