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Timeline of reproductive rights legislation

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Title: Timeline of reproductive rights legislation  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Assisted reproductive technology, Birth control movement in the United States, Sex and the law, Reproductive coercion, Reproductive rights
Collection: Reproductive Rights, Sex and the Law, Society-Related Timelines
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Timeline of reproductive rights legislation

Timeline of reproductive rights legislation, a chronological list of laws and legal decisions affecting human reproductive rights. Reproductive rights are a sub-set of human rights[1] pertaining to issues of reproduction and reproductive health.[2] These rights may include some or all of the following: the right to legal or safe abortion, the right to birth control, the right to access quality reproductive healthcare, and the right to education and access in order to make reproductive choices free from coercion, discrimination, and violence.[3] Reproductive rights may also include the right to receive education about contraception and sexually transmitted infections, and freedom from coerced sterilization, abortion, and contraception, and protection from gender-based practices such as female genital cutting (FGC) and male genital mutilation (MGM).[1][2][3][4]


  • 17th century to 19th century 1
  • 1910s to 1960s 2
  • 1970s to present 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

17th century to 19th century

1910s to 1960s

  • 1918 - In the United States, Margaret Sanger was charged under the New York law against disseminating contraceptive information. On appeal, her conviction was reversed on the grounds that contraceptive devices could legally be promoted for the cure and prevention of disease.[14]
  • 1920 – Lenin legalized all abortions in the Soviet Union.[15]
  • 1931– Mexico as first country in the world legalized abortion in case of rape.[16]
  • 1932– Poland as first country in Europe outside Soviet Union legalized abortion in cases of rape and threat to maternal health.[17]
  • 1935 – Iceland became the first Western country to legalize therapeutic abortion under limited circumstances.[18]
  • 1935 – Nazi Germany amended its eugenics law, to promote abortion for women who have hereditary disorders.[19] The law allowed abortion if a woman gave her permission, and if the fetus was not yet viable,[20][21][22] and for purposes of so-called racial hygiene.[23][24]
  • 1936 – Joseph Stalin reversed most parts of Lenin's legalization of abortion in the Soviet Union to increase population growth.[25]
  • 1936 – A US federal appeals court ruled in United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries that the federal government could not interfere with doctors providing contraception to their patients.[14]
  • 1936 – Heinrich Himmler, Chief of the SS, creates the "Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion". Himmler, inspired by bureaucrats of the Race and Settlement Main Office, hoped to reverse a decline in the "Aryan" birthrate which he attributed to homosexuality among men and abortions among healthy Aryan women,[26] which were not allowed under the 1935 law, but nevertheless practiced. Reich Secretary Martin Bormann however refused to implement law in this respect, which would revert the 1935 law.
  • 1938 – In Britain, Dr. Aleck Bourne aborted the pregnancy of a young girl who had been raped by soldiers. Bourne was acquitted after turning himself in to authorities. The legal precedent of allowing abortion in order to avoid mental or physical damage was picked up by other countries in the Commonwealth of Nations.
  • 1938 – Abortion legalized on a limited basis in Sweden.
  • 1948 – The Eugenic Protection Act in Japan expanded the circumstances in which abortion is allowed.[9]
  • 1955 - Abortion legalized again in the Soviet Union.[25]
  • 1959– The American Law Institute (ALI) drafts a model state abortion law to make legal abortions accessible.
  • 1965 – The U.S. Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut struck down one of the remaining Comstock laws, the state bans on contraception.
  • 1966 – The Ceauşescu regime in Romania, in an attempt to boost the country's population, Decree 770 banned all abortion and contraception, except in very limited cases.[27]
  • 1966 – Mississippi reformed its abortion law and became the first U.S. state to allow abortion in cases of rape.
  • 1967 – The Abortion Act (effective 1968) legalized abortion in the United Kingdom [except in Northern Ireland). In the U.S., California, Colorado, and North Carolina reformed their abortion laws based on the 1962 American Law Institute (ALI) Model Penal Code (MPC)
  • 1968 – Maryland reformed their abortion laws based on the ALI MPC.
  • 1968– President Lyndon Johnson’s Committee on The Status of Women releases a report calling for a repeal of all abortion laws.
  • 1969 – Arkansas, Delaware, Kansas, New Mexico and Oregon, and reformed their abortion laws based on the ALI MPC.
  • 1969– Canada passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69, which began to allow abortion for selective reasons.
  • 1969 – The ruling in the Victorian case of R v Davidson defined for the first time which abortions are lawful in Australia.

1970s to present

  • 1970 – Hawaii, New York, Alaska and Washington repealed their abortion laws and allowed abortion on demand; South Carolina and Virginia reformed their abortion laws based on the ALI Model Penal Code.
  • 1970 – Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970 Pub.L. 91–572, which established the Public Health Service Title X program, providing family planning services for those in need.[28][29]
  • 1971– The Indian Parliament under the Prime Ministership of Indira Gandhi, passes Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 (MTP Act 1971). India thus becomes one of the earliest nations to pass this Act. The Act gains importance, considering India had traditionally been a very conservative country in these matters. Most notably there was no similar Act in several US states around the same time.[30]
  • 1972 – Florida reformed its abortion law based on the ALI MPC.
  • 1972 - The U.S. Supreme Court, in Eisenstadt v. Baird extends Griswold v. Connecticut birth control rights to unmarried couples.
  • 1973 – The U.S. Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, declared all the individual state bans on abortion during the first trimester to be unconstitutional, allowed states to regulate but not proscribe abortion during the second trimester, and allowed states to proscribe abortion during the third trimester unless abortion is in the best interest of the woman's physical or mental health. The Court legalized abortion in all trimesters when a woman's doctor believes the abortion is necessary for her physical or mental health and held that only a "compelling state interest" justified regulations limiting the individual right to privacy.
  • 1973–1980 – France (1975), West Germany (1976), New Zealand (1977), Italy (1978), and the Netherlands (1980) legalized abortion in limited circumstances. (France : no elective -for non-medical reasons- abortion allowed after 10–12 weeks gestation)
  • 1976–1977– Representative Henry Hyde of Illinois sponsors the Hyde Amendment, which passes, allows states to prohibit the use of Medicaid funding for abortions.
  • 1978 - US Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed, prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.[31]
  • 1979 – The People's Republic of China enacted a one-child policy, to alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems in China,[32] encouraging many couples to have at most one child, and in some cases imposing penalties for violating the policy.
  • 1979 – Ireland, Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979 allowed sale of contraceptives, upon presentation of a prescription.
  • 1983 – Ireland, by popular referendum, added an amendment to its Constitution recognizing "the right to life of the unborn." Abortion is still illegal in Ireland, except as urgent medical procedures to save a woman's life.
  • 1985 – Ireland, Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Act, 1985 allowed sale of condoms and spermicides to people over 18 without having to present a prescription.
  • 1985 - United Kingdom, Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 made female genital mutilation a crime throughout the UK. The Act was replaced by the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 and the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005 respectively, both of which extend the legislation to cover acts committed by UK nationals outside of the UK's borders.
  • 1988 – France legalized the "abortion pill" mifepristone (RU-486).
  • 1988 – In Supreme Court of Canada struck down the abortion regulation which allowed abortions in some circumstances but required approval of a committee of doctors for violating a woman's constitutional "security of person"; Canadian law has not regulated abortion ever since.
  • 1989– Webster v. Reproductive Health Services reinforces the state's right to prevent all publicly funded facilities from providing or assisting with abortion services.
  • 1990 – The Abortion Act in the UK was amended so that abortion is legal only up to 24 weeks, rather than 28, except in unusual cases.
  • 1992– In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court overturned the trimester framework in Roe v. Wade, making it legal for states to proscribe abortion after the point of fetal viability, excepting instances that would risk the woman's health.
  • 1993 – Ireland Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Act, 1992 allowed sale of contraceptives without prescription.
  • 1993 – Poland banned abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, severe congenital disorders, or threat to the life of the pregnant woman.
  • 1994– Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act is passed by the United States Congress to forbid the use of force or obstruction to prevent someone from providing or receiving reproductive health services.
  • 1997 – In South Africa, the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1996 comes into effect, allowing abortion on demand. The Abortion and Sterilization Act, 1975, which only allowed abortions in very limited circumstances, is repealed.
  • 1998 – In Christian Lawyers Association and Others v Minister of Health and Others, the Transvaal Provincial Division of the High Court of South Africa upholds the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, holding that the Constitution of South Africa does not forbid abortions.[33]
  • 1999 – In the United States, Congress passed a ban on intact dilation and extraction, which President Bill Clinton vetoed.
  • 2000 – Mifepristone (RU-486) approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In Stenberg v. Carhart, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned a Nebraska state law that banned intact dilation and extraction.
  • 2003 – The U.S. enacted the Gonzales v. Carhart)
  • 2005 – The U.S. Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (implemented in January 2007) prevented college health centers and many health care providers from participating in the drug pricing discount program, which formerly allowed contraceptives to be sold to students and women of low income in the United States at low cost.
  • 2007 – The Parliament of Portugal voted to legalize abortion during the first ten weeks of pregnancy. This followed a referendum that, while revealing that a majority of Portuguese voters favored legalization of early-stage abortions, failed due to low voter turnout.[34] The second referendum passed, however, and President Cavaco Silva signed the measure into effect in April, 2007.[35][36]
  • 2007 – The government of Mexico City legalizes abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and offers free abortions. On August 28, 2008, the Mexican Supreme Court upholds the law.[37]
  • 2007 – The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.[38]
  • 2008– The Australian state of Victoria passes a bill which decriminalizes abortion, making it legally accessible to women in the first 24 weeks of the pregnancy.[39]
  • 2009 – In Spain a bill decriminalizes abortion, making it legally accessible to women in the first 14 weeks of the pregnancy.[40]
  • 2011 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services established the policy, effective 2012, that all private insurance plans are required to provide contraceptive coverage to women without a co-pay or deductible.[41][42]
  • 2012 – In the Philippines, the Congress of the Philippines passed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 which guarantees universal access to contraception, fertility control and maternal care. The bill also mandates the teaching of sexual education in schools.[43][44]
  • 2012 – Uruguay legalizes abortion in the first trimester, making it legally accessible to women.[45]

See also


  1. ^ a b Freedman, Lynn P.; Stephen L. Isaacs (Jan–Feb 1993). "Human Rights and Reproductive Choice". Studies in Family Planning (Studies in Family Planning, Vol. 24, No. 1) 24 (1): 18–30.  
  2. ^ a b Cook, Rebecca J.; Mahmoud F. Fathalla (September 1996). "Advancing Reproductive Rights Beyond Cairo and Beijing". International Family Planning Perspectives (International Family Planning Perspectives, Vol. 22, No. 3) 22 (3): 115–121.  
  3. ^ a b Amnesty International USA (2007). "Stop Violence Against Women: Reproductive rights". SVAW. Amnesty International USA. Retrieved 2007-12-08. 
  4. ^ Template
  5. ^ William Blackstone, Commentaries, 1:120--41 (1765).
  6. ^  
  7. ^ Lord Ellenborough’s Act." (1998). The Abortion Law Homepage. Retrieved February 20, 2007.
  8. ^ Keown, John (1988). Abortion, doctors, and the law: some aspects of the legal regulation of abortion in England from 1803 to 1982.  
  9. ^ a b Status of abortion in Japan. (1967). IPPF Medical Bulletin, 1(6):3. Retrieved April 12, 2006.
  10. ^ a b Sixtus
  11. ^ Kevles, Daniel J. (2001-07-22). "The Secret History of Birth Control". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-10-21. 
  12. ^ Mohr, James C. (1978). Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy, 1800–1900.  
  13. ^ O'Beirne, Kate. (2005, January 8). "America's Earliest Feminists Opposed Abortion." Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 16, 2006.
  14. ^ a b "Biographical Note". The Margaret Sanger Papers. Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass. 1995. Retrieved 2006-10-21. 
  15. ^ "population".  
  16. ^ Mexico rape
  17. ^ "Rozporządzenie Prezydenta Rzeczypospolitej" (PDF) (in Polish). 1932-07-11. Retrieved 2008-12-10. 
  18. ^ Iceland
  19. ^ Friedlander, Henry (1995). The origins of Nazi genocide: from euthanasia to the final solution.  
  20. ^ Proctor, Robert E. (1989). Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis.  
  21. ^ Arnot, Margaret; Cornelie Usborne (1999). Gender and Crime in Modern Europe.  
  22. ^ Facing History and Ourselves. (n.d.). Timeline: Hitler's Notion of Building a Racial State. Retrieved June 22, 2006.
  23. ^ Proctor, Robert E. (1989). Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis.  
  24. ^ Tierney, Helen (1999). Women's studies encyclopedia.  
  25. ^ a b United Nations (2002). Abortion Policies: A Global Review: Oman to Zimbabwe.  
  26. ^ "Homosexuals: Victims of the Nazi Era".  
  27. ^ (Romanian) Scarlat, Sandra. "'Decreţeii': produsele unei epoci care a îmbolnăvit România" ("'Scions of the Decree': Products of an Era that Sickened Romania"), Evenimentul Zilei, May 17, 2005.
  28. ^ US Office of Population Affairs – Legislation
  29. ^ OPA: PUBLIC LAW 91-572-DEC. 24, 1970
  30. ^  
  31. ^ "Facts About Pregnancy Discrimination". 2008-09-08. Retrieved 2011-06-29. 
  32. ^ da Silva, Pascal Rocha (2006). "La politique de l'enfant unique en République populaire de Chine" ("The politics of one child in the People's Republic of China"). Université de Genève (University of Geneva). p. 22-8. (French)
  33. ^ Irving, Helen (2008). Gender and the constitution: equity and agency in comparative constitutional design.  
  34. ^
  35. ^  
  36. ^ Timeline: Portugal, a chronicle of key events, BBC News
  37. ^ Mexican Supreme Court upholds legalized abortion law, 28 August 2008, Los Angeles Times
  38. ^ Greenhouse, Linda (April 19, 2007). "Justices Back Ban on Method of Abortion".  
  39. ^ 10/Oct/2008 Abortion decriminalised in Victoria
  40. ^ Kingstone, Steve (26 September 2009). "Spain unveils abortion law change". BBC News. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  41. ^ ABC News, "Birth Control Free for All: New Insurance Rules Affect Millions of Women", Aug 1, 2011
  42. ^ Reuters, "U.S. says insurers must fully cover birth control", Aug 1, 2011
  43. ^ Maila Ager (December 19, 2012). "RH Bill passes bicam".  
  44. ^ Karl John Reyes, Lira Dalangin Fernandez (December 19, 2012). "Senate, House ratify bicameral panel version of RH Bill".  
  45. ^ "Uruguay Senate Approves First-Trimester Abortions". NY Times. 17 December 2012. Retrieved 2 January 2014. 

External links

  • (Spanish) Los anticonceptivos en la Antigüedad Clásica
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