United States of America

Prior to the 1840s, American courts operated on the basis of English common law. Abortion was illegal after 'quickening', when the mother could first feel the movement of her unborn child. However it proved legally difficult to try any such cases.

In the mid-1840s, abortion as a means of birth control became widely acceptable. Abortionists set up practices and advertised their services in the new popular tabloid newspapers.

In 1847, the new American Medical Association came out against the abortionists and lobbied politicians to introduce anti-abortion legislation. Ironically, the emerging feminist movement opposed abortion, seeing it as a means for men to dominate women and escape responsibility. This is in contrast to the modern feminist movement which sees abortion as a way to escape the the responsibility of motherhood.

A new editor at the New York Times in 1870 instigated a campaign against abortion that was picked up by other papers. Public opinion was changing and by 1900 abortion was illegal everywhere.

In 1959, the prestigious American Law Institute published a new 'model code' for state legislatures, allowing a doctor to perform abortions in cases of rape, incest, serious deformity and wherever a risk to the mental or physical health of the mother was believed to exist.

This code influenced the American Medical Association in 1967 to vote in favour of legal reform. The National Council of Women and the then new feminist movement expressed their support.

In 1969, the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) was formed and launched a highly effective public relations campaign. They invented the slogans 'My right to my own body', 'Not the church, not the state, women shall decide their fate', 'Every child, a wanted child'.

By the end of 1970, New York, Alaska, Hawaii and Washington had repealed their abortion laws and 13 other states voted for reform. But anti-abortion forces were organizing and several other states resisted the easing of abortion controls.

In 1970 Norma McCorvey, the lead plaintiff "Jane Roe" in the Roe v. Wade decision that legalised abortion in America. McCorvey, a Texas resident, sought to end her pregancy by abortion.

McCorvey, who was 21 when the case was filed and was on her third pregnancy, never had an abortion and gave birth to a girl, who was given up for adoption.

In 1972, the year prior to Roe v. Wade, 28 deaths were reported from illegal abortions in the U.S.

On January 22, 1973, the US Supreme Court delivered a stunning victory for the pro-abortion movement. A majority of the Court in Roe vs Wade, found that women had a Constitutional right to abortion and by its legal authority struck down all state abortion laws.

The Court effectively allowed for any abortion to be performed theough all nine months of pregnancy.

The Supreme Court decision took abortion out of politics and declared it a settled question. However the anti-abortion movement refused to accept such an issue could be so settled.

In 1995, McCorvey, the poster girl for abortion in America, became a Christian and now works with opponents of abortion seeking to overturn the Supreme Court decision.

Thirty years later in late 2003, both Congress and the Senate had voted to ban partial-birth abortions, and Roe vs Wade could be re-examined by the Supreme Court, based on new evidence, and overturned.