Timelines :: Abortion


A model penal code for state abortion laws proposed by the American Law Institute (ALI) promotes legal abortions in instances involving the mother’s mental or physical health, pregnancy due to rape and incest, and fetal deformity.

The first ALI-model abortion law is signed in April allowing abortion in cases of permanent mental or physical disability of either the child or mother, or in cases of rape or incest. California, Oregon, and North Carolina pass similar laws.

Abortion on demand up to the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy is allowed in New York after Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller signs a bill repealing the state’s 1830 law banning abortion except to save a woman’s life. Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington state pass similar laws.

Abortion is effectively allowed for any reason following the Supreme Court’s ruling on its first abortion case, United States v. Vuitch. In upholding a District of Columbia law permitting abortion only to preserve a woman’s life or health, the Court makes it clear that the term “health” involves a woman’s mental and physical condition.

By the end of this year, thirteen states have an ALI-type law. Four states allow abortion on demand. Mississippi allows abortion for rape and incest, while Alabama allows it for the mother’s physical health. Thirty-one states allow abortion only to save the mother’s life.

Roe v. Wade: On January 22 of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court issues its ruling in this landmark case giving women the right to abortion and setting up parameters of regulation according to the trimester of pregnancy. Later this year, the National Right to Life Committee—now the nation’s largest pro-life organization—is formed.

In the first statewide political battle after the Roe v. Wade decision, pro-life Sen. Bob Dole defeats a congressman physician who performs abortions.

Boston abortionist Kenneth C. Edelin is found guilty of manslaughter for the death of an unborn child; later this year, the first Human Life Amendment is introduced in the U.S. Senate.

The U.S. Senate conducts a test vote on the Human Life Amendment in April, drawing forty votes of the sixty-seven needed for approval. In June of this year, the first Hyde Amendment is approved, prohibiting Medicaid funding of abortions with limited exceptions. In December, Edelin’s manslaughter conviction is overturned by the Massachusetts Superior Judicial Court, which rules that legal abortions are manslaughter only if the baby is definitely alive outside the mother’s body.

In three cases (Maher v. Roe, Beal v. Doe, and Poelker v. Doe), the U.S. Supreme Court rules that federal and state governments are not obligated to pay for abortion in public-assistance programs.

In Harris v. McRae, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Hyde Amendment, ruling that there is no constitutional right for women to receive abortions at public expense. Later this year, Republican pro-life candidates Ronald Reagan and George Bush defeat pro-abortion President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale. Eleven U.S. senators switch positions from pro-abortion to pro-life.

In July, a bill to challenge Roe v. Wade is approved. In December, a Senate subcommittee approves a constitutional amendment declaring that the Constitution secures no right to abortion.

In March, the Hatch Amendment is approved, which would place abortion regulation in the joint authority of the states and Congress. In September, the bill challenging Roe v. Wade is blocked by a pro-abortion filibuster in the U.S. Senate.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down certain requirements regarding abortions, but it rules that states may require that abortions only be performed by licensed physicians. Also this month, the Senate rejects the Eagleton-Hatch Amendment, which states that the Constitution doesn’t secure the right to an abortion, by a vote of 49-50. And in November, Congress approves an amendment prohibiting the use of federal employees’ health benefits programs to pay for abortions, except in circumstances threatening the life of the mother.

In June, the Reagan Administration announces the “Mexico City Policy,” denying funds to foreign organizations that perform or promote abortion as a family-planning tool in other nations. Later this year, pro-life President Reagan is reelected, defeating pro-abortion Democrats Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro.

In July, the House reaffirms the Mexico City Policy by a 45-vote margin. The Kemp/Kasten Amendment is also enacted, denying U.S. population-assistance funds to any group that supports or participates in programs of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization. Later this month, the U.S. Justice Department files a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In June, in Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down state laws requiring an abortionist to use the method most likely to allow the child to be born alive. It also strikes down women’s right-to-know laws and the waiting-period requirement. In September, leading pro-abortion senators fail to block the promotion of Associate Justice William Rehnquist to Chief Justice.

In July, President Reagan announces that Title 10 funds won’t be offered to programs giving counseling and referral for abortion services as a family-planning method. In August, Reagan appoints a federal task force to encourage adoption as an alternative to abortion. In October, the Senate rejects the nomination of pro-life Judge Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court. (The seat ultimately goes to Anthony Kennedy, who in 1992 will vote to reaffirm the core holdings of Roe.)

In September, French government approves licensing for the use of RU 486. Later this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration bans the importation of the drug for personal use. Also in September, the U.S. Senate passes an amendment barring Washington D.C. from paying for abortions or performing abortions in its city-operated hospital. In October, the French government reverses its decision to halt distribution of RU 486. And in November, pro-life Republican candidates Vice President George Bush and Dan Quayle defeat pro-abortion Democratic candidates Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen.

In July, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds parts of a Missouri law stating that governments do not constitutionally have to make public facilities available to those performing abortions. In November, the Freedom of Choice Act is introduced for the first time in the U.S. House, and Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey signs the Abortion Control Act.

In March, a federal court in New York dismisses Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit challenging the Mexico City Policy. In May, it is announced that RU 486 will be marketed outside France. In June, the U.S. House rejects a proposal to fund two organizations that promote abortion in less-developed nations. In August, the AFL-CIO executive council rejects a proposal to switch from a neutral stance on abortion to take a pro-abortion position.

The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Bush administration’s regulations that prohibit routine counseling and referral for abortion in four thousand clinics that receive Title 10 funds. President Bush vows to veto any legislation weakening current law or existing regulations pertaining to abortion. Later this year, the president nominates and the Senate confirms Judge Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. In October of this year, a child is born with one arm severed at the shoulder after surviving an abortion attempt in her mother’s third trimester of pregnancy.

In February, the Bush Administration threatens to veto legislation requiring federal funding of research that encourages or depends on abortion, including the use of tissue harvested from aborted babies. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirms the basics of Roe with only a few changes. In September, at a National Abortion Foundation seminar, abortionist Martin Haskell describes the gruesome partial-birth abortion technique, and in November, pro-abortion Democrats Bill Clinton and Al Gore defeat pro-life President George Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle.

In January, President Clinton issues five executive orders regarding abortion issues: 1) reversing Title 10 regulations banning abortion referral by federal employees; 2) repealing the Mexico City Policy; 3) lifting the ban on funding for fetal tissue transplants; 4) instructing military hospitals to perform abortions; and 5) asking the FDA to review the import ban on RU 486. The following month, abortionist Abu Hayat is convicted of assault and illegal abortion for his attempt to kill via abortion Ana Rosa Rodriguez, the baby born in 1991 with a severed arm. In June, the U.S. House renews the Hyde Amendment. An NRLC-led lobbying campaign defeats the so-called Freedom of Choice Act, a proposed federal statute to invalidate even the narrow types of state abortion regulations permitted by the Supreme Court. In December, the Clinton administration orders states to change their laws and provide payments for abortions in cases of rape or incest.

U.S. patent rights for RU 486 are donated to the Population Council. A massive public education and lobbying campaign led by NRLC contributes heavily to the ultimate defeat of Clinton’s national health system that would ration life-saving care and pay for abortion on demand. In October, the Population Council announces that testing of RU 486 is underway in the U.S. In November’s nationwide congressional elections, no pro-life members of Congress are defeated by pro-abortion challengers. Republicans take over majority control of both houses of Congress. Pro-lifers pick up six votes in the Senate and about forty in the House.

In June, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act is introduced in the U.S. House. In August, Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade, tells a national television audience that she now supports the right to life of unborn children. Also, abortionist David Benjamin is convicted of seconddegree murder in the botched-abortion death of Guadalupe Negron. He is the first New York abortionist to be convicted of murder. In November, the U.S. House passes the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, and in December, the U.S. Senate passes it.

In April, President Clinton vetoes the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. In September, the FDA declares RU 486 approvable, but asks for more information before the drug can be marketed. In November, Bill Clinton and Al Gore defeat the pro-life Republican ticket of Bob Dole and Jack Kemp.

In March, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act is passed in the House in March, and in May, it is passed in the Senate with just three votes shy of the number required to override President Clinton’s veto, issued, as expected, the following October.

In April, the New England Journal of Medicine publishes the results of a U.S. trial of RU 486 and the drug is declared safe by the Population Council.

In May, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission says researchers should be allowed to harvest the stem cells from leftover embryos at fertility clinics for research that may result in effective treatments for Parkinson’s and other diseases. Research on stem cells might also lead to methods of growing body parts. The commission reasons that the benefits from research outweigh any “taint that might attach from the source of the stem cells.”

In June, the Swiss vote to decriminalize abortion. A parliamentary decision to allow abortions within the first twelve weeks is backed by 72 percent of voters.

In November, the ban on partial-birth abortions is signed into law. Three federal court temporary injunctions are obtained to prevent the law from being enforced.

In July, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty signs legislation that requires doctors to tell women who are seeking an abortion after twenty weeks of gestation that fetuses might feel pain during the procedure, and the physicians must offer the option of fetal anesthesia.

Backed by abortion-rights groups, three Massachusetts women sue Walmart, accusing the retail giant of violating a state regulation by failing to stock emergency contraception pills in its pharmacies.

Legislation is introduced in Tennessee that would require death certificates for aborted fetuses.

In Romania, abortions are illegal after fourteen weeks of gestation unless needed to protect the health of the woman…..However, a government panel approves an abortion for an eleven-year-old at more than twenty weeks gestation because of her age and in order to preserve her mental health. The Romanian Orthodox Church itself, however, does not denounce the abortion because they feel that abortion in case of rape and incest may be acceptable….The girl had been apparently raped by her uncle. (lifesitenews.com)


January 23—Led by President Barack Obama, the United States repeals the so-called global gag order that had prevented U.S. funding for international family planning groups that offer advice on or perform abortions.

March 9—Australia lifts a thirteen-year ban on using foreign-aid funds to support family planning and safe abortions in poor nations.

May 31—Dr. George Tiller, whose clinic was one of only three in the nation to provide late-term abortions, is shot and killed as he enters Reformation Lutheran Church. He had been attacked previously, receiving two gunshot wounds in 1993, and his clinic had been bombed in 1985.

August 20—A federal judge strikes down portions of a South Dakota abortion law requiring doctors to tell women seeking the procedure that they have a legally protected relationship with the fetus, and another requiring doctors to inform women that abortion increases the risk of suicide, calling it untruthful and misleading. The judge upholds the section of the law that states doctors must tell a pregnant woman that the procedure will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.

December 28—Since the legalization of abortion in Mexico City (April 2007), approximately thirty-four thousand procedures have been performed. (lifenews.com)


Abortion garners much attention in this year’s legislative activity, with the subject being the focus of thirty-nine of the eighty-nine new laws. The new abortion laws are said to be “overwhelmingly restrictive,” with “the reinstatement of public funding for abortion in DC (permitted by federal law for the first time in almost three decades)” being “a notable exception.” (https://rewire.news/article/2011/01/07/state-legislative-trends-2010-abortion-restrictions-once-again-dominate/).

September—Pro-abortion advocates in North Carolina (including two Planned Parenthood affiliates) file suit in the U.S. District Court in North Carolina seeking to block that state’s Woman’s Right to Know law. (That law requires mothers seeking abortion be given information and a viewing of an ultrasound of the unborn child before the procedure). (http://www.nrlc.org/press_releases_new/Release092911.html)

AugustA law protecting unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion is challenged in the U.S. District Court for Idaho. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act had been passed by the Idaho state legislature by overwhelming majorities earlier in the year. (http://www.nrlc.org/press_releases_new/Release092911.html)

—New regulations implemented by the Obama administration mandate that sterilization options, abortion drugs, and contraception services must be included in virtually all health plans, including those offered by Christian charities, church-based hospitals, Christian universities, and other faith-based social-services agencies. (http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/01/pro-choice_obama_forces_religious_institutions_to_pay_for_abortion_drugs.html)

March—The Obama administration issues the final rules on abortion funding. Nestled within the “individual mandate” in the Obamacare act—the portion of the act requiring every American to purchase government-approved insurance or pay a penalty—is an “abortion premium mandate” requiring all enrolled in insurance plans that include elective abortion coverage to pay a separate premium from their own pockets to fund abortion.

August—Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), a leading pro-life member of Congress, calls President Barack Obama “extreme” on abortion, particularly citing the president’s opposition to a ban on sex-selective abortion. (http://cnsnews.com/news/article/rep-chris-smith-obama-wants-force-every-taxpayer-pay-every-abortion-united-states)

A record eighty-seven surgical abortion clinics close this year. The total number of surgical abortion clinics in the U.S. falls 12 percent to 582 in 2013—a 73 percent decline from a high of 2,176 in 1991. (cnsnews.com)

The U.S. Appeals Court upholds new, tough Texas abortion rules that have led to the closure of nearly twenty clinics around the state, saying the new rules don’t jeopardize women’s health. (fox news.com)

A series of videos is released showing Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of babies’ body parts harvested from abortions.

According to the Pew Research Center, public support for legal abortion is as high as it has been in two decades of polling. Currently, 57 percent say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 39 percent say it should be illegal in all or most cases.


Pro-Life President Donald Trump signs an executive action in his first week in office reinstating the so-called Mexico City Policy, which bars international nongovernmental organizations that perform or promote abortions from receiving U.S. government funding.

In October, the House of Representatives approves a Trump-supported bill (the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, first presented in 2013 and re-introduced in 2015) banning most abortions after twenty weeks of pregnancy. The bill fails to pass the Senate.


Fifteen states adopt twenty-seven new restrictions on abortion and family planning; twenty-three of these seek to restrict abortion and the remaining four are aimed at family-planning providers. This marks the lowest number of new abortion restrictions enacted in at least a decade. Perhaps even more significantly, this is the first in recent years when the number of proactive policies enacted outpaces new restrictions. (https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2018/12/state-policy-trends-2018-roe-v-wade-jeopardy-states-continued-add-new-abortion)


The Reproductive Health Act is enacted in New York on January 22, 2019, the forty-sixth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade ruling, expanding abortion rights and removing certain limitations on abortion in the state.

Republican-led states pass fifty-nine abortion restrictions, with “heartbeat bills” that ban abortion at six weeks becoming law in Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Missippi. Alabama bans abortion altogether.