History of Abortion

Below is a timeline of key points in the history of abortion in the U.S. plus articles, books, and videos that tell give more details.

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In 1916, Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic, which was in Brooklyn, NY.

(1914-1918 World War I with the U.S. entering in 1917)


(In 1920, women won the right to vote in the United States.)

(1920s Roaring '20s)


(1930s Great Depression)


(1939-1945 World War II with the U.S. entering in 1941)


(1950-53 Korean War)

(1955-75 Vietnam War)

(1955-68 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leading Civil Rights Movement)


(1955-75 Vietnam War)

(1955-68 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leading Civil Rights Movement)

In 1960, hormonal birth control was marketed.

1960s and '70s Free Love Movement in which "hook ups" became popular long before "hook up" was a term.

(1963 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and Pres. John F Kennedy assassinated)

In 1965, contraception became legal in all 50 of the United States (Griswold v. Connecticut).

In 1966, Margaret Sanger died at age 86.

In 1967, Colorado decriminalized abortion under certain circumstances. California, Oregon, and North Carolina enacted similar laws.

(1968 Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated)

In the late 1960s (perhaps as late as 1969), NARAL (which at that time stood for National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws) lobbied for legal abortion. Dr. Bernard Nathanson was one of the founders. He had treated women who had tried to perform their own abortions and wanted to end the self-mutilation.

According to Dr. Nathanson, Planned Parenthood was invited by NARAL to partner in lobbying for legalized abortion. Planned Parenthood declined.


In 1970, abortion was legalized in Hawaii, New York, Alaska, and Washington.

According to Dr. Nathanson, women flooded into New York for abortions. Planned Parenthood saw how much money was to be made and then joined NARAL in their lobbying efforts.

In 1971, Washington, DC legalized abortion.

By 1972, 13 states had decriminalized abortion under certain circumstances.

January 22, 1973, Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton effectively legalized abortion in all 50 states.

After Roe and Doe, the ultrasound machine became more widely used. Dr. Nathanson saw a baby on an ultrasound machine and asked, "What if we've been wrong?" He became pro-life because he saw that pre-born babies were  not just a clump of cells. He then filmed, "The Silent Scream," which you can find on YouTube. Therefore, the "clump of cells" argument is over 50 years old and disproven by the ultrasound machine.

"Planned Parenthood’s false stat: ‘Thousands’ of women died every year before Roe" by the Washington Post Fact Checker

"When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense" by Frederica Mathewes-Green
At the time of the Roe v. Wade decision, Ms. Mathewes-Green was "a college student — an anti-war, mother-earth, feminist, hippie college student... 'We...thought, back then, that few abortions would ever be done. It’s a grim experience, going through an abortion, and we assumed a woman would choose one only as a last resort. We were fighting for that 'last resort.'"

More Links on the History of Abortion

The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by The Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind by Bernard Nathanson 
Dr. Nathanson, "The Abortion King," was one of the founders of NARAL. He was a critical part of the marketing machine that resulted in New York making abortion legal in 1970. He became pro-life when he saw a baby moving via ultrasound. He became pro-life first and later converted to Catholicism. He also famously made a video called "The Silent Scream," which you can watch on YouTube.

"How the Sexual Revolution Hijacked Feminism" by Live Action & Lila Rose

Pro-life women in history: Six amazing women who opposed legalized abortion by Carole Novielli