Legal Tides Surrounding Abortion
"Just like me to put all my eggs in one bastard."
-Dorothy Parker on her abortion and
subsequent failure to conceive later
on in life.
I have never known a time when abortion was not an option for any unwanted pregnancy I might find myself with. Those of us with these freedoms we have never had to fight for often forget what hardships and sacrifices others have made for these rights we now take for granted. And just as we take this right for granted, there are those laying the groundwork to have it overturned at this very moment. This apathy could lead to our downfall. Nearly thirty years ago the Supreme Court made a landmark decision in Roe vs. Wade which overturned the Texas statute outlawing abortion and making abortion a matter of both state and federal law. But the struggle did not begin there, for as with all laws, the foundations had to be set in order for such an important piece of legislation to be enacted.
In 1800 abortion was legal. Beginning with an 1821 anti-poison statute in Connecticut, state governments began to restrict abortion in response to pressure from doctors who were trying to oust midwives and other competition from the medical profession. As the Connecticut example indicates, doctors were concerned about the dangers of poisonous abortifacients and the risks of surgical abortions as this was still the non-antiseptic age of medicine. By 1900 all states had severely restrictive laws, an ironic state of affairs as the wealthy never had any difficulty procuring an elective abortion, as in the case of Dorothy Parker, who underwent hers in the 30's. It was the poor women who had to resort to "back alleys" and undergo painful and oftentimes fatal procedures to terminate their pregnancies.