George Richard Tiller, a doctor who performed abortions in Wichita, Kansas, was shot to death on 31 May 2009 by Scott Roeder. As the director of one of only a small number of clinics in the US that performed legal late-term abortions, Tiller was a target for anti-abortion activists. Though Tiller lived and worked in Kansas, his work agitated anti-abortion groups and fueled the controversy surrounding abortion at a national level. Tiller's life and death fueled the abortion debate in the US.
Gordon Watkins Douglas researched cervical cancer, breach delivery, and treatment of high blood pressure during pregnancy in the US during the twentieth century. He worked primarily at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York, New York. While at Bellevue, he worked with William E. Studdiford to develop treatments for women who contracted infections as a result of illegal abortions performed throughout the US in unsterile environments. Douglas also established the first contraception and pregnancy termination clinic at Bellevue Hospital shortly after the legalization of abortion as a result of the 1973 US Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. Furthermore, Douglas showed that fetal and maternal cells exchange between the pregnant woman and fetus during pregnancy, which led to the later development of non-invasive prenatal testing in the early twenty-first century.
In the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court ruled that laws banning abortion violated the US Constitution. The Texas abortion laws, articles 1191–1194, and 1196 of the Texas penal code, made abortion illegal and criminalized those who performed or facilitated the procedure. Prior to Roe v. Wade, most states heavily regulated or banned abortions. The US Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade secured women's rights to terminate pregnancies for any reasons within the first trimester of pregnancy. It also sparked legal discussions of abortion, fetus viability and personhood, and the trimester framework, setting a landmark precedent for future cases including Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989), Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), and Stenberg v. Carhart (2000).
In 2019, Americans United for Life, hereafter AUL, published a model legislation, called the Women’s Right to Know Act, in their annual publication Defending Life. The goal of the model legislation, which AUL annually updates, is to help state governments enact enhanced informed consent laws for abortion. The Women’s Right to Know Act requires physicians to provide specific information to women before they may consent to having an abortion. It also suggests that individual US state governments to develop informational materials about abortion and pregnancy that healthcare providers must give to women before they receive an abortion. As of 2020, twenty-eight states have enacted informed consent laws for abortion that resemble the Women’s Right to Know Act. In a larger effort to dismantle legal access to abortion, the AUL’s Women’s Right to Know Act encourages individual states to restrict access to abortion to protect, what the organization calls, the unborn child.
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.
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. The decision fueled debates in the early twenty-first century US abouts women's rights to abortions.
Self-proclaimed female physician Ann Trow was a women’s reproductive health specialist as well as an abortion provider in New York City, New York during the mid 1800s. Though she had no formal medical training or background, Trow provided women with healthcare and abortions under the alias Madame Restell. Restell gained attention across the United States for her career as a professional abortionist during a time when abortions were highly regulated and punishable with imprisonment. Restell was tried numerous times for carrying out abortions. She never confessed to any crimes, but she was convicted on several occasions. Her services as a business woman, medicine producer, abortion provider, boarding house maintainer, and adoption facilitator provided women with solutions to unwanted pregnancies throughout her forty years of healthcare service and made her a subject of widespread controversy in the United States.
Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. (Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood) was the 2007 US Supreme Court case in which the Court declared the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 constitutional, making partial birth abortions illegal. In 2003, the US Congress passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which prohibited an abortion technique called partial birth abortion. A partial birth abortion is similar to, but not the same as, a Dilation and Extraction or D&X abortion, which is what the Ban was intended to prohibit. Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood eventually reached the Supreme Court, where the Court ruled that the Ban was constitutional. In Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood, the Court ruled for the first time that it was constitutional to ban a method of abortion without providing an exception for cases where a pregnant woman’s life was endangered.
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.