The Silent Scream is an anti-abortion film released in 1984 by American Portrait Films, then based in Brunswick, Ohio. The film was created and narrated by Bernard Nathanson, an obstetrician and gynecologist from New York, and it was produced by Crusade for Life, an evangelical anti-abortion organization. In the video, Nathanson narrates ultrasound footage of an abortion of a twelve-week-old fetus, claiming that the fetus opened its mouth in what Nathanson calls a silent scream during the procedure. As a result of Nathanson's anti-abortion stance in the film, The Silent Scream contributed to the abortion debate in the 1980s.
In Stuart v. Camnitz, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision of a North Carolina District Court that declared a controversial ultrasound mandate for abortions unconstitutional in 2014. The ultrasound mandate was a part of the Woman’s Right to Know Act introduced in North Carolina in 2011, which placed several restrictions on abortion care providers in the state. If enforced, the ultrasound mandate would have required physicians to perform an ultrasound on every patient before an abortion and simultaneously describe the resulting image of the fetus regardless of whether the woman wanted to hear the description. The District Court ruled the mandate an unconstitutional violation of physicians’ free speech rights. The Fourth Circuit Court’s decision to affirm the District Court’s ruling established that the state could not compel healthcare providers to recite what the court called state ideology to patients against their medical judgment, which broke with precedent set by prior rulings by the Fifth and Eighth Circuit Courts in similar cases.
The North Carolina state legislature passed The Woman’s Right to Know Act in 2011, which places several restrictions on abortion care in the state. The Woman’s Right to Know Act, or the Act, imposes informed consent requirements that physicians must fulfill before performing an abortion as well as a twenty-four hour waiting period between counseling and the procedure for people seeking abortion, with exceptions for cases of medical emergency. Then-governor of North Carolina Beverly Perdue initially vetoed House Bill 854, which contained the Act, but the state legislature overrode her veto to pass the bill. In response to a lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, and other organizations filed in 2011, a US district court judge blocked the law’s ultrasound mandate from going into effect and a later court case determined that the mandate was illegal. With the passage of the Act in North Carolina, the state passed several abortion regulations and mandated that abortion providers must inform women of specific details about their pregnancy before performing the abortion procedure.
In January 2014, Mary Gatter and colleagues published “Relationship between Ultrasound Viewing and Proceeding to Abortion” in Obstetrics and Gynecology hereafter “Ultrasound Viewing.” As of 2021, ten states require women to undergo an ultrasound before they may consent to having an abortion. Self-described pro-life organizations assert that viewing an image of the fetus will dissuade women from having an abortion. The authors reviewed women’s medical records from over fifteen thousand visits to one abortion provider in 2011.The authors determined viewing an ultrasound image did not change the minds of women who were already highly certain that abortion was the right decision, challenging the idea that mandatory ultrasound viewing has any effect on women’s decision to have an abortion.
In 2003, the Texas state legislature passed the Woman’s Right to Know Act, hereafter the Act, as Chapter 171 of the state’s Health and Safety Code. The Act sets requirements that physicians must follow during the informed consent process for abortion, or a medical procedure to terminate pregnancy, in Texas. Lawmakers amended the Act and added several additional regulations that restrict access to abortion in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017. For instance, the Act requires that physicians perform abortions after sixteen weeks of pregnancy in ambulatory surgical centers or hospitals and states that physicians must perform an ultrasound to view images, called sonograms, of a developing fetus inside a woman’s uterus before a woman may receive an abortion. The Act further requires practitioners and clinics to offer state-developed informational materials to women who seek an abortion. The Act placed several restrictions on abortion care in Texas, making it more difficult for women to access safe and legal abortion care, which opponents have challenged in courts.
Eclipse of Reason is a 1987 anti-abortion documentary film directed, filmed, and narrated by Bernard Nathanson, an obstetrician in the US. American Portrait Films released the film in 1987 featuring Nathanson’s commentary and footage of an abortion of a four-month-old fetus. The film also featured the testimony of women who had suffered following similar procedures. In Eclipse of Reason, Nathanson equates the fetus to a person, likening abortion procedures to murder and arguing for the illegalization of abortion. This documentary was a sequel to Nathanson’s first documentary film, The Silent Scream released in 1984. Both documentaries argued for illegalizing abortion, which had been decriminalized in 1973 in the United States. Eclipse of Reason was one of the most influential films that garnered public attention to the abortion debate in the US during the 1980s.
Horatio Robinson Storer was a surgeon and anti-abortion activist in the 1800s who worked in the field of women’s reproductive health and led the Physicians’ Crusade Against Abortion in the US. Historians credit Storer as being one of the first physicians to distinguish gynecology, the study of diseases affecting women and their reproductive health, as a separate subject from obstetrics, the study of pregnancy and childbirth. Storer was one of the first physicians to successfully perform a Caesarian section, or the removal of the fetus through a surgical incision, followed by the removal of the woman’s uterus, a procedure which would later be known as Porro’s operation. Storer was also an anti-abortion activist who believed that public attitudes toward abortion were too relaxed and that the laws did not effectively punish what he deemed to be the criminal act of abortion. Historians credit Storer with leading the Physicians’ Crusade Against Abortion, which they consider largely responsible for the increase in laws criminalizing abortion in the late 1800s.