History of Roe v. Wade


“I felt ‘crushed’ under the truth of this realization. I had to face up to the awful reality. Abortion wasn’t about ‘products of conception.’ It wasn’t about ‘missed periods.’ It was about children being killed in their mother’s wombs. All those years I was wrong. Signing that affidavit, I was wrong. Working in an abortion clinic, I was wrong. No more of this first trimester, second trimester, third trimester stuff. ” – Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in the infamous Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade


Obviously, there will always be people who will take their own route to try to solve their problems, but legalizing abortion lies encouraged many women to follow the abortion route because it now seems respectable. They would never have considered an illegal abortion.

Who can do more than speculate about what might happen? If we turn to the pre-1973 record, even the highest estimates of abortions annually were but a tiny fraction of the million-and-a-half a year since 1973, the year abortions were legalized for the nation.

I quote Dr. Bernard Nathanson, M.D., once the hero of the abortion movement, now firmly committed to the right to life of every unborn. In his book, “Aborting America,” Dr. Nathanson addresses the question of “back alley” abortions:

“The favorite button of the pro-abortionists is the one showing the coathanger symbol of the self-induced abortion and the carnage that results from it, or the similar problem of botched illegal abortions done by ‘back-alley butchers’…

“How many deaths were we talking about when abortion was illegal? In NARAL (National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws) we generally emphasized the drama of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter it was always ‘5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year.’ I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the ‘morality’ of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics? The overriding concern was to get the laws eliminated, and anything within reason that had to be done was permissible. Statistics on abortion deaths were fairly reliable…but not all these deaths were reported as such if the attending doctor wanted to protect a family by listing another cause of death. In 1967…the federal government listed only 160 deaths from illegal abortion. In…1972, the total was only 39 deaths. Christopher Tietze estimated 1,000 maternal deaths as the outside possibility in an average year before legalization; the actual total was probably closer to 500.”

Are 1,000 deaths meaningless? Are 39? Of course not. One death is meaningful. But once again, the mothers involved could have chosen not to abort. Moreover, there is no guarantee that they would have survived legal abortions either. http://www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/cardocqanda.html


Senator Edward Kennedy wrote to a constituent in 1971 just prior to Roe V. Wade and had this to say:  “While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized — the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grown old. When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.”


In 1967, abortion was a felony in forty-nine states, with exceptions to save the life of the mother (“therapeutic abortion”). Seven states additionally allowed exceptions for the prevention of permanent bodily injury or damage to the mother’s health. By 1973, fourteen states had added provisions allowing abortion when childbirth endangered the physical or mental health of the mother, or there was a high likelihood of abnormality. Four states (Alaska, Hawaii, New York, Washington) de-criminalized abortion during early pregnancy altogether by 1970.

As of 1973, forty-six out of fifty states did not recognize this supposedly fundamental constitutional right, though many allowed abortion under various circumstances (see above) in response to changing social attitudes. By comparison, only thirteen states (eleven of which had been coercively repatriated after the Civil War) were guilty of violating civil rights through racial segregation in the 1960s. If abortion were really a fundamental right, it is unprecedented that the vast majority of elected state governments should neglect to recognize it. Political discussion about abortion in 1972 revolved on whether it should be legal, not if it was guaranteed by the Constitution. Public opinion from 1972 onward shows strong support for legalizing abortion in limited circumstances: serious health risk, birth defect, rape, yet even long after Roe, more Americans continued to oppose (50%) rather than favor (40%) elective abortions for reasons of low income, not wanting more children, or not wanting to marry the father. (General Social Survey, National Opinion Research Center, Univ. of Chicago) Roe’s broadly construed right to elective abortion was without basis in public opinion.


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