Abortion: Decade of Debate

January 14, 1983

Report Outline
Politics and the Courts
Developments Since 1973
Outlook for the Future
Special Focus

Politics and the Courts

Continuous Debate Since the 1973 Decision

Every Jan. 22 the highly emotional issue of abortion takes center stage in the nation's capital. On that date — the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1973 landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade making abortion legal — abortion opponents stage a protest demonstration on Capitol Hill. This year's demonstration has special significance since it marks the 10th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. The abortion issue is attracting a lot of attention in Washington for other reasons as well. The Supreme Court is deliberating a series of cases that together constitute the most comprehensive review of the 1973 decision; a ruling is not expected before next June. But whatever the court decides, abortion foes have pledged to continue to push for anti-abortion legislation in the new 98th Congress.

The Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that women have a right to have an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy free of interference by the state. Since the ruling, two large, well-organized special interest groups have made their presence felt on the national political scene: the pro-life or right-to-life movement, which is working to overturn the Supreme Court decision, and the pro-choice movement, which is working to counteract attacks on the 1973 ruling.

The pro-life lobby, a component of the loose-knit conservative alliance known as the “New Right,” appeared to have made big political gains in the 1980 elections. Ronald Reagan, an outspoken opponent of abortion, was elected president, and some of the most liberal, pro-choice Democratic senators —including George McGovern of South Dakota, Birch Bayh of Indiana, Frank Church of Idaho and John C. Culver of Iowa — were turned out of office. It appeared as though the stage were set for a strong executive and legislative push against abortion.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Sep. 09, 2022  Abortion Post-Roe
Mar. 01, 2019  Abortion Controversies
Mar. 21, 2014  Abortion Debates
Oct. 04, 2011  Gendercide Crisis
Sep. 10, 2010  Abortion Debates
Sep. 22, 2006  Abortion Showdowns
Mar. 21, 2003  Abortion Debates
Nov. 28, 1997  Roe v. Wade At 25
Apr. 07, 1995  Abortion Clinic Protests
Jul. 05, 1991  Teenagers and Abortion
Jan. 26, 1990  Abortion: Politicians' Nightmare
Oct. 16, 1987  Abortion Policy
Jan. 14, 1983  Abortion: Decade of Debate
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