Abortion Law Reform

July 24, 1970

Report Outline
Attacks on Laws Restricting Abortion
Moral and Religious Views of Abortion
Impact of Science on Abortion Issues
Special Focus

Attacks on Laws Restricting Abortion

Reform of restrictive state laws on abortion gives every indication of being an idea whose time has come. The author of a standard work on the subject could say only four years ago that “abortion is the dread secret of our society.” Secretiveness has since given way with astonishing speed to open discussion, legislative action, and litigation. Starting with Colorado in 1967, no fewer than 15 states have revised their penal codes with a view to broadening the legal grounds for operations to terminate pregnancy. Moreover, several abortion laws have been declared unconstitutional in court rulings. One such ruling, striking down the District of Columbia's abortion statute, has been appealed to the Supreme Court and will be argued during the autumn 1970 term. It is conceivable that the Court's opinion in the case will result in nullification of all state abortion laws, both old and new.

Abortion stirs deep emotions among religious leaders, physicians, and laymen. Many persons feel that terminating the existence of a fetus, no matter how small and undeveloped it might be, is a highly repugnant act. On the other hand, an apparently growing number of persons accepts the view that abortion is needed, along with contraception, to control population growth. Militant women's groups argue, in addition, that laws governing abortion deny women full control over their own bodies.

Opinion on abortion reform is fairly evenly split. A Gallup Poll posed the following question in November 1969: “Would you favor or oppose a law which would permit a woman to go to a doctor to end pregnancy at any time during the first three months?” Of those responding, 40 per cent were in favor of such a law, 50 per cent were opposed, and 10 per cent had no opinion. Louis Harris obtained very similar results in a poll published June 22, 1970. His polling organization sounded out opinion on laws “permitting abortion for almost any reason.” Breaking down the results in terms of the respondents' religious affiliation, Gallup reported 31 per cent and Harris 30 per cent of Catholics in favor of more liberal abortion laws. Harris also asked for opinions on the statement that “Until good, safe birth control methods can be found, abortions should be legalized.” Forty-nine per cent of the respondents agreed with the statement, and 39 per cent disagreed.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Sep. 22, 2006  Abortion Showdowns
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Apr. 07, 1995  Abortion Clinic Protests
Jul. 05, 1991  Teenagers and Abortion
Jan. 26, 1990  Abortion: Politicians' Nightmare
Oct. 16, 1987  Abortion Policy
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Oct. 22, 1976  Abortion Politics
Jul. 24, 1970  Abortion Law Reform
Oct. 06, 1965  Abortion in Law and Medicine
Abortion, Contraception and Reproductive Issues
Abortion, Contraception and Reproductive Issues