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Thesis: Dismantling Legal Constraints to Contraception in the 1900s

In the late nineteenth century, the Comstock Act of 1873 made the distribution of contraception illegal and classified contraception as an obscenity. Reflecting the predominant attitude towards contraception at the time, the Comstock Act was the first federal anti-obscenity law that targeted contraception. However, social acceptance of birth control changed at the turn of the twentieth century. In this thesis, I analyzed legislation, advocates, and literature pertinent to that social change to report on the events leading up to the decriminalization of contraception.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: People, Legal, Reproduction

The Hyde Amendment of 1976

In 1976, the US Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, which banned the use of federal funding to pay for abortions through Medicaid. In 1976, Illinois Congressman Henry J. Hyde proposed the amendment to the Departments of Labor and Health, Education, and Welfare, Appropriation Act of 1977. In 1980, the US Supreme Court in Harris v. McRae (1980) upheld the constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Harris v. McRae (1980)

On 30 June 1980, in a five to four decision, the US Supreme Court ruled in the Case Harris v. McRae that the Hyde Amendment of 1976 did not violate the US Constitution. The Hyde Amendment banned the use of federal funding to pay for any abortion services. The US Supreme Court's decision in Harris v. McRae overturned the decision of McRae v. Califano (1980), in which the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York had ruled that the funding restrictions established by the Hyde Amendment violated the US Constitution. After the US Supreme Court's ruling in Harris v.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Beal v. Doe (1977)

In the case of Beal v. Doe, tried in 1977, the US Supreme Court ruled that states could constitutionally restrict money from Medicaid from funding elective abortions. After the 1973 case Roe v. Wade, in which the US Supreme Court had ruled women have the rights to terminate pregnancies within the first trimester, the state of Pennsylvania passed legislation that restricted the use of Medicaid funds for abortion procedures. In 1977, several Medicaid eligible women who were unable to receive coverage for a non-therapeutic abortion brought a case against Frank S.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

1901 Arizona Comstock Law

In 1901, the Arizona Territorial Legislature codified territorial law that illegalized advertising, causing, or performing abortions anywhere in Arizona. The 1901 code, in conjunction with the federal Comstock Act, regulated the advertisement and accessibility of abortion services and contraceptives in Arizona. The Federal Comstock Act of 1873 had illegalized the distribution of material on contraceptives and abortions through the US Postal Services by labeling contraceptive and abortive material as obscene.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

United States v. Dennett (1930)

In the 1930 US federal court case United States v. Dennett, Mary Coffin Ware Dennett was cleared of all charges of violating the anti-obscenity Comstock Act, a charge she had incurred by distributing her sex education pamphlet called The Sex Side of Life: An Explanation for Young People. The United States Postal Service charged Dennett under the Comstock Act, which prohibited the distribution of sex-related materials through the mail.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Planned Parenthood Committee of Phoenix v. Maricopa County (1962)

In the 1962 case Planned Parenthood Committee of Phoenix v. Maricopa County, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that Arizona Revised Statute 13-213, which banned the public advertising of contraceptive or abortion medication or services, was constitutional. However, the court also ruled that that Arizona Revised Statute 13-213 did not apply to Planned Parenthood's distribution of contraceptive information, allowing Planned Parenthood to continue distributing the information.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Organizations

State v. New Times, INC (1973)

In the 1973 case State v. New Times, INC, the Arizona Court of Appeals in Phoenix, Arizona, ruled that Arizona Revised Statutes 13-211, 13-212, and 13-213, collectively called the Arizona abortion statutes, were unconstitutional. The statues made it illegal for anyone to receive, provide, or advertise abortion services. The Arizona Court of Appeals reviewed a case in which a city court in Tempe, Arizona, convicted the New Times, a newspaper headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, of advertising abortion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Outreach

Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Lakey (2012)

In the 2012 case Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. David Lakey, a US appeals court ruled as constitutional a Texas law that required abortion providers in the state to show women receiving abortions the ultrasound images of their fetuses. The law also required providers to describe the sounds of the fetuses' nascent hearts. In doing so, the court set precedent that ultrasound readings are necessary medical information for pregnant women seeking abortions, increasing the wait-period for women seeking abortions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Kass v. Kass (1998)

In Maureen Kass v. Steven Kass (1998), the Court of Appeals of New York in Albany, New York, ruled that the state should generally consider IVF consent forms signed by participants in an in vitro fertilization (IVF) program valid, binding, and enforceable in the event of a dispute. The court indicated that decisions regarding the handling of cryopreserved pre-zygotes, often called preembryos, contained within these consent forms should be upheld.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy Protection Act (1921)

In November 1921, US Congress passed the National Maternity and Infancy Protection Act, also called the Sheppard-Towner Act. The Act provided federal funds to states to establish programs to educate people about prenatal health and infant welfare. Advocates argued that it would curb the high infant mortality rate in the US.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Outreach

Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (1994)

On 26 May 1994, US President Bill Clinton signed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act in to law, which federally criminalized acts of obstruction and violence towards reproductive health clinics. The law was a reaction to the increasing violence toward abortion clinics, providers, and patients during the 1990s. That violence included clinic blockades and protests, assaults on physicians and patients, and murders. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act established

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health (1983)

In the 1983 case City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health the US Supreme Court ruled that certain requirements of the city of Akron’s “Regulation on Abortion” ordinance violated women’s rights to abortions. Despite the legalization of abortion in the 1973, with the US Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, individual states passed legislation regulating certain aspects of abortion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Doe v. Bolton (1973)

In the 1973 court case Doe v. Bolton, the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., ruled that a Georgia law regulating abortion was unconstitutional. The Georgia abortion law required women seeking abortions to get approval for the procedure from their personal physician, two consulting physicians, and from a committee at the admitting hospital. Furthermore, under the statutes, only women who had been raped, whose lives were in danger from the pregnancy, or who were carrying fetuses likely to be seriously, permanently malformed were permitted to receive abortions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt (2016)

In the 2016 case Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the US Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the Texas requirements that abortion providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that abortion facilities meet ambulatory surgical center standards. Whole Woman’s Health represented abortion care providers in Texas and brought the case against the commissioner for the Texas Department of State Health Services, John Hellerstedt.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

The People of the State of New York v. Margaret H. Sanger (1918)

In 1918, the New York State Court of Appeals in Albany broadened the justification physicians could use to prescribe contraceptives to married patients in the case The People of the State of New York v. Margaret H. Sanger (People v. Sanger). The presiding judge of People v. Sanger, Frederick Crane, ruled that under Section 1145 of the New York Penal Code physicians could provide contraceptives to married couples for the prevention of disease.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Summerfield v. Superior Court [Brief] (1985)

Arizona joined the majority of states that recognized wrongful death claims on behalf of a viable fetus, regardless of whether the child was born alive or died in the womb by expanding the definition of "person" to include a viable fetus.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Commonwealth v. Luceba Parker [Brief] (1845)

The Court settled the question left open from the case of Commonwealth v. Bangs that it must be proved a woman was "quick with child" in order for abortion prohibitions to have any effect in Massachusetts.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Bonbrest v. Kotz [Brief] (1946)

This influential opinion was copied throughout the United States allowing civil actions and wrongful death claims on behalf of children who suffered injuries while a viable fetus. The case essentially overruled the opinion by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in Dietrich v. Inhabitants of Northampton (1884). However, the ability to sue was usually limited in two ways: the fetus had to be viable, and a child had to be born alive to have a claim. These two restrictions have recently been removed in many jurisdictions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Davis v. Davis [Brief] (1992)

This case was the first of its kind to address questions of personhood in the context of in vitro fertilization of a human embryo. It laid a foundation for future cases to work from: specifically, this case established the importance of prior written agreements for disposition of frozen embryos. This was also the first court decision to borrow the word "pre-embryo" from bioethics to describe the in vitro embryo. This terminology has been copied by many states.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Paretta v. Medical Offices for Human Reproduction [Brief] (2003)

The court decided a child of in vitro fertilization born with cystic fibrosis does not have the right to sue for wrongful life even in the presence of demonstrable acts of medical negligence because to allow such a case would grant the IVF child rights not possessed by naturally born children. The decision in Paretta has not been publicly tested in other jurisdictions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Berman v. Allan (1979)

The Supreme Court of New Jersey decided the case of Berman v. Allan on 26 June 1979, brought by Shirley Berman and Paul Berman and their daughter Sharon Esther Berman against Ronald Allan and Michael Vincent Attardi, Shirley's physicians. The court dismissed the Bermans' claims for what they termed wrongful life of their daughter, but allowed them to claim compensation as a result of what was termed wrongful birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

"Limitations in Abortion Legislation: A Comparative Study" (2007), by Orli Lotan

Written by Orli Lotan on behalf of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) Center for Research and Information, "Limitations in Abortion Legislation: A Comparative Study" (hereafter abbreviated "Legislation") examines abortion legislation in Israel, the US, Canada, and a number of European countries. The study also acknowledges the medical, moral, ethical, and religious implications of abortion and the impact of such legislation on society in each country.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Legal, Reproduction

Turpin v. Sortini (1982)

The Supreme Court of California reversed the Superior Court of Fresno County's decision to dismiss the Turpins' claims in the case Turpin v. Sortini on 3 May 1982. The case was based upon a wrongful life claim, in which a disabled child sues physicians for neglecting to inform its parents of potential genetic defects, resulting in harm to the child when it is born. The Turpin case determined tha a physician could be liable for failing to inform parents of potential birth defects in the fetus.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972)

Prior to 1971, women had some difficulty obtaining contraceptive materials due to a law prohibiting the distribution of contraceptives by anyone other than a registered physician or registered pharmacist. This limited access to contraceptives had an impact on women's reproductive rights and it was the Supreme Court case Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) that helped bring the issue into the public spotlight. It demonstrated that women's bodies have reproductive as well as anatomical functions, and that the right to privacy extends to those reproductive functions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction