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 give more details.

Margaret Sanger

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division [digital ID: ggbain.20859]



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


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

"No, that's abortion. We don't want that. Birth control is different."

Margaret Sanger

Autobiography of Margaret Sanger

Ev'ry one stops to admire the scene,

Rosie at work on the B-Nineteen,

She's never twittery,

nervous or jittery,

Rosie the riveter.

"Rosie the Riveter" by Redd Evans & John Jacob Loeb, 1942



1920 Nineteenth Amendment ratified, granting women the right to vote

(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)


(Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Civil Rights Movement)

photo by the National Park Service, cropped

Jason "Textfiles" Scott, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons, cropped



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


(Vietnam War)


Hormonal birth control was marketed.

1960s & 1970s

Free Love Movement in which "hook ups" became popular long before "hook up" was a term.


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


Contraception became legal in all 50 of the United States (Griswold v. Connecticut).


Margaret Sanger died at age 86.


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


(Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated)


In 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.

"The sexual revolution completed the sexualisation of women."

Sheila Jeffreys

Anticlimax: A Feminist Perspective on the Sexual Revolution

"What if we were wrong?

Dr. Bernard Nathanson

Atheist & Co-Founder of NARAL turned pro-life OB/GYN



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 could be made and then changed their minds and joined NARAL in their lobbying efforts.


Washington, DC legalized abortion.


13 states decriminalized abortion under certain circumstances.


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

Later 1970s

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. Although Jewish by birth, Dr. Nathanson was an atheist by faith.

1973 Supreme Court Justices

front: Potter Stewart, William O. Douglas, Warren E. Burger (Chief Justice), William Brennan, Byron White; back: Lewis F. Powell, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, William Rehnquist

Dr. Bernard Nathanson

"The Silent Scream"



Dr. Nathanson filmed, "The Silent Scream," which you can find on YouTube. So, the "clump of cells" argument is over 50 years old and disproved by the ultrasound machine.

“We can see the child moving rather serenely in the uterus. The child senses aggression in its sanctuary. We see the child's mouth wide open in a silent scream.”

Dr. Bernard Nathanson

"The Silent Scream"

“If HR 3755 passes the Senate, it won’t matter if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade.”

Cheryl Krichbaum

LifeSite, Dec 2, 2021



September 18, 2020, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passes away.

October 27, 2020, Amy Coney Barrett begins her service as a Supreme Court Justice.


The Women's Health Protection Act was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives and sent to the Energy and Commerce Committee. On September 24, it passed the House and was sent to the Senate.


February 28, 2022, the U.S. Senate voted not to proceed with the Women's Health Protection Act. (The vote was not seen much in the news.)

May 2, 2022, a draft opinion by the Supreme Court about the Dobbs v Jackson case that would ultimately overturn Roe v Wade was leaked to the public.

May 11, 2022, the U.S. Senate voted not to proceed with the Women's Health Protection Act. (The vote was covered widely by the news.)

June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization overturned the previous Roe and Casey rulings, sending abortion laws back to the individual states.

"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.'"

Frederica Mathewes-Green

National Review

More Links on the History of Abortion

by Barnard 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 from atheism to Catholicism.

by the Washington Post Fact Checker

by Live Action & Lila Rose

"Pro-life women in history: Six amazing women who opposed legalized abortion"

by Carole Novielli, Live Action

by Frederica Mathewes-Green, National Review

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.

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