Abortion in the United States – Term Paper


There is evidence of a limited number of rogue midwives and doctors undertaking abortion in the United States from 1850s. The initial effort of overturning the state laws, which prohibited abortion, started when a group of prominent law professors, judges, and lawyers being the members of American law in 1957 proposed a model penal code calling for abortion in legal cases where there is a substantial risk  (Barot, 2016). According to the penal code, the substantial risk could only be accepted if the continuance of pregnancy could result to impairment of mental as well as physical health of the mother or if the child from the pregnancy would be born with significant mental and physical defects  (Cohen, 2000). In addition, abortion would be accepted if the pregnancy resulted from incest or rape.


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In 1973, the Supreme Court in the United States addressed abortion in different cases of Doe vs Bolton¬†and Roe vs Wade . Court holdings in regards to Roe and Doe had a significant effect of making abortion legal on demand in the entire period of pregnancy. Before federal legalization of abortion in the United States, every state had an independent authority of determining the legality of abortion ¬†(‚ÄúA History of Key Abortion Rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court‚ÄĚ, 2013). Even if the states had the powers of imposing the restrictions in the third and second trimesters of pregnancy, 1973 marked a period when all the states were needed to make abortion legal.

Prior to the case of Roe vs Wade  as well as the entire period of American history, the states severely restricted and banned abortion. The state laws enacted in the 19th as well as early 20th century focused on those performing abortions instead of pregnant women who wanted abortion performed on them. The main objective of these state laws was to protect the pregnant women as well as their children against injury but not to prosecute them.

Regardless of the almost-universal restriction on abortion in 20th century, some social forces in the mid and late 20th century like the feminist movements and fight for women suffrage pushed the nation towards sexual and political freedom for women . Colorado was the first state in 1967 to broaden various events under which women were legally accepted to receive abortion. Eleven more states made changes to their laws in 1970 and four states inclusive of Alaska, Washington, Hawaii and New York had decriminalized abortion in the early stages of pregnancy completely.

Roe v Wade

In Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court considered challenging the Texas law which outlawed abortion for all cases with exception of cases where the life of a woman was in danger. In regards to this case, the lower federal courts had made a declaration that the statutes were not constitutional, ruling that denying the woman the freedom of deciding if to carry pregnancy was violating the basic liberty and privacy interests as contained in the constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed the conclusion from the lower federal courts and eliminated the statutes by a vote of 7-2. Justice Harry Blackmun, representing the majority acknowledged that regardless of the fact that the constitution does not mention any right to privacy explicitly, a number of decisions prior to the case had established a guarantee of zones of privacy as well as specific areas  (Roe v. Wade, 1973). In addition, Blackmun stated that the guarantee of privacy was grounded in numerous amendments in the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of liberty and the Bill of Rights, which incorporating together generated zones of privacy is specific areas of privacy such as contraception, marriage, child rearing and family relationships. The argument by Justice Blackmun in regards to the right of privacy in Roe depended on earlier decisions from the High Court  like Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965. In relation to Griswold the high court had initially struck down the anti-contraception law on the basis intruded to marital privacy right. Justice William Douglas in writing for the majority asserted that areas of individual privacy were fundamental to the context of liberty under the penumbra protection on specific guarantees in regards to the Bill of Rights  (Roe v. Wade, 1973).

Doe v. Bolton

In 1973, this case focused on lenient Georgia law which gave freedom to a woman in terminating pregnancy if her health and life were in danger or if the fetus likely to be born would be having serious defects and if the pregnancy was as a result of rape. According to the requirements of the statute, abortion would only be performed in an hospital accredited by the relevant authority. In addition, two medical practitioners would confirm abortion on the judgment of necessity. Doe is mostly cited for definition of maternal health inclusive of numerous factors inclusive of maternal health as a justification for the legalization of abortion in the last trimester. This happens as long as the woman can find a practitioner who is willing to perform the abortion, then she has the right of performing abortion at any moment during the entire period of pregnancy (Doe v. Bolton, 1973). In regards to Doe v. Bolton the Supreme court ruled that any state law on abortion would meet the guidelines below:

(i). In initial three months of pregnancy, the decision to abortion should be entirely left to the mother and the physician.

(ii). In the next three months, the states have the power of enacting laws regulating abortion in ways which are only reasonably related to the health of the mother.

(iii). In the last three months, the state law can forbid from abortion on ways not determined to preserve her health and life necessarily.

The current legal status of abortion in the United States

Federal Legislation

President George W. Bush and the House of Congress signed the Federal Partial Birth Abortion Act, the first law restricting D&X procedures in performing abortion. The Act defines partial abortion as abortion where the person performing the act intentionally and deliberately delivers a living fetus until the case of the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother, or, in event of breech presentation, the fetal trunk beyond the navel is outside the body of the mother. In addition, the Act authorizes the father married to the mother during the period of abortion as well as the maternal grandparents of the fetus, in case the mother is below 18 years to get specified relief in regards to civil action. There is an exception that the pregnancy was because of a criminal act by the plaintiff or plaintiff authorized abortion (Hopkins Tanne, 2003). The defendant is accused to obtain hearing before the medical board as whether the conduct by the medical practitioner was important in saving the life of the mother. However, the woman is protected from prosecution upon the fact that abortion is performed by partial birth is used as a conspiracy of violating the Act under provisions relating punishment as an accessory as well as concealment of a felony.

State Legislation

In regards to the decision in Carhart a number of states in U.S have made significant efforts of regulation abortion. For instance, states such as Arizona, Alabama, Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia and Texas have enacted laws which require physicians to undertake Ultrasound procedures before abortion. The Supreme Court in Casey establishes laws allowing Ultrasound procedures before abortion on the decision in 1992, where the court upheld the decision by the states requiring patients to provide informed consent 24 hours before abortion is performed. The current Ultrasound laws generate a demanding consent by forcing women seeking abortion to undergo transvaginal ultrasound procedures before abortion is performed. However, some of these laws have recently been challenged in the federal courts (Hopkins Tanne, 2003).

Abortion Statistics

Currently, there are approximately 1.2 to 1.5 million abortions each year in the United States. However, this number is not certain because of inadequate reporting and standards. According to the CDC report on abortion, 15% of abortions performed on children were from married women while the remaining 85% resulted from unmarried mothers in 2014. In addition, 15% of abortions performed by married mothers are because of conceptions, which would not have taken place if abortion was not legalized in the United States. Before abortion was legalized, the rate of abortion was approximately 10%. The report also indicates that 66% of abortions are conceptions which would not have taken place but for the changes in sexual behaviors. In relation to religion, 7%, 56% and 4% of Muslims, Christians, and Hindus respectively support abortion in the United States with the remaining percentage against the act ¬†(‚ÄúThe Economic Effect of Abortion: Billions and Billions Lost‚ÄĚ, 2016).

Public Opinion on Abortion

A large population of Americans inclusive of those considering themselves as pro-choice support substantial abortion restrictions. A survey conducted in 2014 found that approximately 81% of the American citizens and 66% who are pro-choice would prohibit abortion during the initial three months, with 82% agreeing with this decision. Based on the age groups, people aged between 18-34 years would support abortion for privacy and individual freedom. Additionally, 55% of Latins, Asians and African Americans agree that Abortion is harmful to women in comparison to the benefits derived thereof. 60% of Americans inclusive of 61% of women stated that abortion is not morally right. This is inclusive of 33% of the pro-choice Americans. Generally, 77% of the population in the US said that the abortion laws under the federal and state governments can protect the unborn children and the mothers with 23% of the pro-choice identifiers not agreeing with that opinion. In relation to partial birth, a survey conducted by Gallup in the first six months of 2015 showed that 57% of Americans would vote for this issue with 39% voting against the law (Gallup, 2014).

Financing Abortion

The cost of abortion depends on various factors like facility, location, timing as well as the type of procedures used. As of 2005, abortion in non-hospitals for a pregnancy lasting for 10 weeks had a cost of $430, while that of 20 weeks was $1250  meaning that the costs are higher in relation to the medical abortions more than the surgical abortions in the first trimester.

The federal law requires the Medicaid abortions in the event of occurrence of endangerment of life, rape, and incest, and rape cases, abortion cover as to be accommodated. However, the federal law clarifies that Medicaid should only be for abortion purposes. Currently, in the United States of America, only 32 states and DC provide this cover. The funding only recognizes events Medicaid incest, rape, and life endangerment. The covers that do not meet the Hyde Amendment, SD only recognizes abortion covers that that are related to the endangerment of the concerned individuals life. Women who have experienced physical health has been jeopardized are provided abortion covers by IN, UT, and WI (Barot, 2016). In cases of fetal abnormality, IA, VA, UT, and MS provide abortion covers to the affected women. Private financing is only accepted in specific clauses under the constitution.

Effects of Making Abortion Legal

It is clear that there are numerous effects of making abortion legal in the United States. Most of the people mistake abortion as being entirely as a moral issue because of avoiding the effects it has on the economy. It is horrible to witness innocent babies being killed, but no one imagines the contributions made by those 50 million lives. Maybe one of those children aborted could offer a solution to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Asthma, Cancer and other diseases. According to the United States National Bureau of Statistics legalizing abortion has resulted to a loss of $400 billion with 47 billion contributed to national social security and 11 billion contributed to the Medicare  (Cohen, 2000). Even if these contributions have reduced the national expenditure, the added incomes would assist the country significantly.

Addressing Abortion in the United States

Given the issues from the amendments relating to the restrictions on abortion, the government of the United States has limited the ability to address the problems resulting from maternal mortality, unsafe abortion, and morbidity  (Cohen, 2000). However, in the short term, the administration has made significant steps to reduce the number of abortions by allowing foreign funding avoiding the involvement of the House of Congress to be used for services of abortion in cases where it is legal especially for women experiencing incest, rape as well as life-threatening emergencies. In addition, the administration of the United States has rendered the US policy on abortion more lenient in times of dire circumstances.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Since 1973 when Justices Harry Blackmun, Warren Burger, William Brennan, Warren Burger and Lewis Powell legalized abortion in the US, their decision has destroyed about 50 million lives in the country. Around $ 10 billion is lost each year taking into consideration the long-term effects of abortion. In addition, legalizing abortion has massive effects on sexual behaviours outside the institution of marriage. Research also shows that abortion also affects the prevalence of venereal diseases among women in the long term. In order to avoid these effects, the government of United States should take adequate steps to restrict abortion with exception of medical recommendations since other factors held constant, abortion is similar to denying a child the right to live. 


A History of Key Abortion Rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court. (2013). Pew Research Center’s Religion ; Public Life Project. Retrieved 15 July 2016, from http://www.pewforum.org/2013/01/16/a-history-of-key-abortion-rulings-of-the-us-supreme-court/

Barot, S. (2016). Retrieved 15 July 2016, from https://www.guttmacher.org/about/gpr/2013/09/abortion-restrictions-us-foreign-aid-history-and-harms-helms-amendment

Cohen, S. (2000). Abortion Politics and U.S. Population Aid: Coping with a Complex New Law.International Family Planning Perspectives,;26(3), 137. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2648303

Doe v. Bolton (1973).

Gallup, I. (2014).;Gallup Brain: Opinions on Partial-Birth Abortions.;Gallup.com. Retrieved 15 July 2016, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/8791/gallup-brain-opinions-partialbirth-abortions.aspx

Hopkins Tanne, J. (2003). US Senate outlaws ‚Äúpartial birth abortion‚ÄĚ.;BMJ,;326(7390), 619a-619. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7390.619/a

Roe v. Wade (Supreme Court 1973).

The Economic Effect of Abortion: Billions and Billions Lost. (2016).;LifeNews.com. Retrieved 15 July 2016, from http://www.lifenews.com/2012/07/16/the-economic-effect-of-abortion-billions-and-billions-lost/