Today In History : January 22, 2022
On This Day In History
On January 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s legal right to an abortion, was decided. The Court ruled that a woman’s right to choose an abortion was protected by the privacy rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The legal precedent for the decision was rooted in the 1965 case of Griswold v. Connecticut, which established the right to privacy involving medical procedures.
In the 1700s and early 1800s, the word “abortion” referred only to the termination of a pregnancy after “quickening,” the time when the fetus first began to make noticeable movements. Women in the 1700s often took drugs to end their unwanted pregnancies.
Abortion itself only became a serious criminal offense in the period between 1860 and 1880. The roots of the new law came from the newly established American Medical Association. Doctors saw abortion practitioners as unwanted competition. They went about eliminating that competition by lobbying to make abortion illegal.
By the turn of the century, all states had laws against abortion, but they were rarely enforced. It wasn’t until the late 1930s that abortion laws were enforced. Subsequent crackdowns led to a reform movement that succeeded in lifting abortion restrictions in California and New York even before the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.