Abortion History

In 1973, as a result of the Supreme Court decisions, “Roe V. Wade” and “Doe v. Bolton” abortion became legal in the U.S. for all nine months of pregnancy for virtually any reason. The decision of Roe v. Wade was the direct result of two women attorneys from Texas, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee. As young attorneys, they were interested in making names for themselves by arguing a landmark case through the court system to the Supreme Court. The issue of abortion was selected based on the personal experience of Sarah Waddington and due to the social climate in the late 1960’s.

Attorneys Weddington and Coffee made known they were looking for a pregnant woman so they could test the legality of abortion in the courts. Through referrals they discovered Norma McCorvey who claimed to be pregnant as the result of a rape. She was unmarried, unemployed, and pregnant for the second time. Her mother had custody of the first child and her family was not supportive. Norma McCorvey became “Jane Roe”. Henry Wade was the District Attorney of Dallas County Texas where Roe lived.

At about the same time in Georgia, twenty three people and a young woman “Mary Doe” presented claims against Arthur K. Bolton, Attorney General of Georgia, for an abortion based on mental health. Doe (a mental patient at a state hospital) was married, pregnant, and a 22 year old who was the mother of three living children. Two of her children were in foster care and the third had been placed for adoption.

On January 22, 1973, Justice Henry Blackman ruled on both the cases of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton legalizing the right for women to get an abortion for virtually any reason through all nine months of pregnancy. This was done by defining “health” as almost any consideration inclusive of physical, emotional, psychological, or social. This is a simplified summary of complex legislation, but the law remains the same today and has resulted in approximately 1.3 million abortions each year in the U.S. This equates to roughly 48 million babies lost to abortion since 1973.


The “Slippery Slope Phenomena” is phrasing developed to explain the circumstances that take shape from the roots of something evil. A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members. Using legalized abortion as the determinate for how society treats our most vulnerable human beings – the unborn – it should not be surprising that other threats to life such as euthanasia, partial birth abortion, lack of bio-ethics, and capital punishment have also become natural pathways toward total disrespect for human life.


Late term abortions are often referred to as partial-birth abortion because of the procedure used to abort viable babies. Martin Haskel, the physician who developed partial birth abortions for use between the fifth and ninth month of pregnancy testified at congressional hearings that an estimated 80% of these abortions are “purely elective”, (healthy babies of healthy mothers) and the remaining 20% because of genetic problems. Many ob-gyns and specialists in high-risk pregnancies have come forward to state unequivocally that partial-birth abortion is never necessary to preserve a mother’s health. On April 18th, 2007, the Supreme Court upheld the “Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act” a ban on one type of partial-birth abortion. The procedure of dismembering late term babies in the mother’s uterus is still in use and available.


RU-486 (mifepristone) is a chemical which induces an abortion in the first seven weeks of pregnancy when used in conjunction with another drug, prostaglandin. It was approved for use by the FDA in 2000 and is widely available. The drug has been associated with several deaths and many complications, but remains in use throughout the U.S.

Emergency Contraception (EC) or the “Morning After” Pill is a single or two dose pill containing a high dose of progestin. It claims that if taken within 72 hours of “unprotected” sex, it will prevent ovulation. However, it can also prevent an already conceived embryo from implanting in the endometrium, causing an early abortion. The FDA approved its use in 2006 for women 18 and older. In 2009, a Federal District Court judge in NYS ordered the FDA to lower the age of use to 17 and also allow men 17 and older to purchase Plan B for their partners. The FDA, under the Obama Administration, decided not to appeal the order and the age of use stands at 17. Emergency Contraception is available at pharmacies and clinics without a prescription and no parental notification is required.

Family Planning Advocates have argued continuously that access to contraceptives such as EC would lower pregnancy and abortion rates. The most recent findings by large studies in 2007 tell a different story. Not a single study showed that EC reduced pregnancy or abortion rates. Pregnancy resource centers are reporting that many young women are using EC multiple times as a regular form of birth control.

Ella (ulipristal acetate) is the newest form of “emergency contraception”. It does not operate as other forms of EC do. It blocks progesterone receptors in the uterine lining and destroys the capacity of the mother’s reproductive organs to produce the progesterone necessary to support an embryo through the first ten weeks of pregnancy. The American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists properly calls Ella an embryocidal drug. Ella has been approved by the FDA for sale in the U.S.


Thank you for visiting The Diocese of Syracuse

We invite you to stay up to date on news and happenings within the Diocese.
We respect your time and privacy, your information will never be shared.