In the early American Colonies, English Common Law was adopted by the United States, which declared abortion forbidden. The procedure was ruled a misdemeanor if performed before quickening, which meant "feeling life," and a felony if performed after quickening. In the early 1800s, it was discovered that life begins at conception and not when the mother "feels life." Eighty-five percent of the states had laws that made all abortions a felony. Between the 1800s and today, many arguments have taken place regarding when life begins for a fetus and to what extent the mother has a right to terminate her pregnancy (Fast Facts: History of the U.S. Abortion Laws, 2003). There have been numerous attempts to change the current laws and/or add to them and the majority of these attempts have failed. The most famous law of them all resulted from the case of Roe v. Wade , is still in effect today and forms the basis for abortion laws and arguments.
Important Court Cases
One of the most important dates in abortion history is January 22, 1973. On this date, the Supreme Court struck down all state abortion laws and legalized abortion in all 50 states for the full nine months of pregnancy. A mother's right to abortion is known as the outcome of Roe v. Wade and falls under a woman's right to privacy. More specifically, the court ruled that the government could restrict abortion access after the first trimester with laws intended to protect the woman's health. Also, late-term abortions need the approval of a licensed physician to judge the procedure necessary to protect the mother's health (Roe v. Wade: The 1973 Supreme Court Decision on State Abortion Laws, 1973) .
According to an article written by Michael W. McConnell, "the reasoning of Roe v. Wade is an embarrassment to those who take constitutional law seriously, even to many scholars who heartily support the outcome of the case (p. 136)." The first...