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In 1973 the Supreme Court invalidated abortion laws in 46 states in Roe v. Wade. In 1972, when N.Y. was the only state with a liberal abortion law, there had been 586,000 legal abortions and perhaps 200,000 illegally-terminated pregnancies. Abortions doubled from 744,000 in 1973 to 1,550,000 in 1980, when they stabilized at around 40 percent of live births. Many states enacted laws discouraging abortions, and Congress passed the Hyde amendment to halt federal financing of them. The Senate demonstrated that it was unwilling to confirm anti-abortion nominees to the Supreme Court with Robert Bork's defeat in 1987.
On 29 January 1988, Ronald Reagan forbade federally-funded health clinics to advise women on abortion, and in 1989, George Bush banned the use of fetal tissue in medical experiments. William Clinton reversed these policies by executive order on 22 January 1992 and committed his administration to appointing judges who were pro-abortion.
Anti-abortion protests turned increasingly confrontational and violent after 1992, when massive pro-life demonstrations led to thousands of arrests in Wichita, Kans., where a family-planning center physician was later wounded on 19 August 1993. At a Pensacola, Fla., abortion clinic, pro-life activists killed one doctor on 10 March 1993; on 29 July 1994, they killed another doctor and wounded two helpers at the clinic. Congress responded with legislation in 1993 that made intimidation or use of force against abortion clinic personnel a federal offense.