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.

Carol Downer was a reproductive health and abortion rights activist in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the US and other countries. During the late 1960s, many women reported knowing little about female anatomy and receiving little information from their physicians. Downer advocated for women’s reproductive anatomy education and encouraged women to not rely on the intervention of a medical doctor for all reproductive issues. Downer demonstrated how to perform a vaginal self-examination to many women and taught women around the world how to provide safer in-home abortions when abortions were illegal. Downer helped start clinics throughout California which provided some of the first legal abortions in the US. With her reproductive health activism, Downer spread reproductive health self-help tactics throughout the US and the world, thereby improving women’s access to health information.

On 2 July 1979, the United States Supreme Court decided Bellotti v. Baird, ruling that a Massachusetts law that prohibited minors from obtaining abortions without parental consent was unconstitutional. That law prohibited minors from receiving abortions without permission from both of their parents or a superior court judge. Under that law, if one or both of the minor’s parents denied consent, the minor could petition a superior court judge who would determine whether the minor was competent enough to make the decision to abort on her own. In addition to judging the minor’s competency, a superior court judge could also determine whether the abortion was in the minor’s best interest. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision and ruled that the existing Massachusetts law was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s ruling on Bellotti v. Baird affirmed that minors had the right to choose an abortion and that the decision to abort was personal and could not be overridden or vetoed by a third party.

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