7 Pages


The origins of policy affecting abortion are in English common law, which was more explicit about the termination of pregnancy than its prevention. Policy related to abortion has undergone two periods of major debate and reform: from 1840 to 1880 and from 1960 to the present. Today the abortion issue is, for many feminists, central to women’s rights. In this view, they differ from their predecessors. The linchpin of the debate has been the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973). In 1992, the Supreme Court sought to settle the constitutional debate over the legality of abortion. The debate since has shifted to other areas, especially those of access to services and banning late-term abortion procedures. In this section, we will examine the history of the abortion debates in America as they led to Roe, as well as the aftermath of that ruling, and it will be followed by a section describing recent efforts to achieve a compromise on this emotive-symbolic issue.