The issue of abortion is notoriously controversial. Since the Supreme Court’s 1992 ruling in Casey v. Planned Parenthood, states have enacted different restrictions on the procedure. These restrictions vary from state to state. Nineteen states currently have laws prohibiting partial-birth abortion, and forty-one states strictly prohibit abortions except in cases of life-endangerment. One particularly incendiary area of abortion law is that of public funding. However, as of this year there are only seventeen states that cover abortion procedures through public funding. In this paper we will discuss federal abortion legislation, while describing the laws and political ideologies of the following states: Texas, California, New York and Florida. First, however, it is important to understand the history surrounding abortion laws in the states.
The Brief History of State Abortion Laws
Long before Roe v. Wade, states had established their own laws on abortion. The earliest recorded legal restriction on abortion was enacted in 1820 in the state of Connecticut. This law banned abortions through the intake of toxic substances, and was in place for 112 years. The law was ruled unconstitutional in a three-to-one decision by the Supreme Court in April of 1972 (Gazette). In 1967 Colorado was the first state to legalize abortion in cases where the life of the mother was not at risk. Among the states that followed were Hawaii and New York. However, it was during the Women’s Rights Movement that the abortion debate came to its boiling point.
During the late 60’s and 70’s, activists viewed abortion to be not only a medical procedure, but a symbol of a woman’s right to choose. One example of abortion activism took place in 1969, when the radical feminist group the Redstockings held what was called an “Abortion Speakout” in New York. At this event, women were encouraged to discuss their own (illegal) abortion experiences. These events then spread to other states (Napikoski).
With national attention being drawn to this issue, liberal and conservative state Legislatures were compelled to enact legislation either legalizing or prohibiting abortion. It was the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade that truly changed the abortion debate.
A Review of Federal Abortion Law
Perhaps the most widely known federal abortion case is that of Roe v. Wade. This case, filed by lawyers Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington in 1973, sought to repeal the Texas law banning all abortions not necessary to protect the life of the mother. The plaintiff, Norma McCorvey (“Roe”) wished to have the procedure, but was prevented from doing so, as her health was not in danger. At that time, abortions were only permitted in Texas when advised by a physician to save the mother’s life.
The law was initially ruled unconstitutional in state court, before being brought...