In the 1950s and 1960s abortion, deliberately ending a pregnancy, was a crime in most states, even for a woman whose life was in danger.
If a woman wanted a safe abortion, she had to go abroad. In desperation some women had illegal abortions, and a number died as a result.
In the 1960s women began to lobby for the reform of abortion laws, and by 1970 a few states allowed women to get legal abortions.
A major change came in 1973 when, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that women should be able to choose to have an abortion during the first several months of pregnancy. This decision invalidated the laws in forty-six states (all but Alaska, Hawaii, New York, and Washington).
After the Supreme Court ruling, abortion became a hot political issue. Congress voted not to pay for abortions for women receiving government medical aid.
From the late 1970s on, different states passed laws setting conditions for obtaining an abortion, such as the requirement that teenage girls get their parents’ consent. The Supreme Court upheld many of these laws.
In 1960 the U.S. government approved the first birth control pill, giving women more choice over when to have children.