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Timeline: The progression of reproductive rights How reproductive rights have evolved from the 19th century

By Flora Peng

Since the early 1800s, abortion and access to birth control has been a point of controversy in women’s reproductive rights. Abortion, the “deliberate termination of human pregnancy” according to the Oxford English dictionary, has undergone a multitude of changes through the years: legal before a woman could feel her baby moving inside her then outlawed in 26 countries, as of May 2018. But despite this social progression, the dispute has yet to be resolved.

1914 - The term “birth control” was first coined by Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger and used among her fellow women's rights activists.

Conception: the action of conceiving a child or of a child being conceived

The term “birth control” was first coined by Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger in 1914 and used among her fellow women's rights activists. However, this usage was met with fierce opposition not only by her community but also by the local jurisdiction. She was indicted for violating the Comstock Law, which prohibited contraception and declared its advertisement “obscene.” Sanger would later open the first birth-control clinic in 1916 and commission the first contraceptive, Enovid, to be passed by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).

Intended to be a solution to women’s menstrual problems and poor family planning, the pill Enovid was eventually approved by the FDA in 1960 as an oral contraceptive targeted at encouraging more practical and effective contraceptives than using crude machines to abort unwanted pregnancies.

Even though the pill took almost a decade to enter mainstream pharmacies, it granted significant freedoms to American women.

In 1965, the Supreme court case Griswold v. Connecticut determined the constitutionality of a “right to privacy” when individuals made decisions about “intimate, personal matters” such as childbearing.

Gestation: the process of carrying or being carried in the womb between conception and birth

In essence, states could not proscribe the methods by which women and their partners decided to use contraceptives, regardless of marital status.

1975 - Music artist Loretta Lynn released the country music song “The Pill” in 1975

Furthermore, in continuation of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s that inspired many women to fight for their own rights, music artist Loretta Lynn released the country music song “The Pill” in 1975, which highlighted the lack of birth control in rural areas. The song later became known as a feminist classic and peaked as one of “Rolling Stone’s” 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time.

1973 - Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade extended the “right to privacy” to the decision to have an abortion.

Quickening: the moment in pregnancy when the pregnant woman starts to feel or perceive fetal movements in the uterus

The 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision that extended the “right to privacy” to the decision to have an abortion, noting that the right needed to be balanced against the state’s interests in protecting women’s health and that of the potential child. A year after this decision, the first use of the term “pro-choice,” a way to describe abortion advocates, was documented.

Twenty years later, “The Economist” named the birth control pill one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World amid repeated acts of violence against abortion centers and clinical staff. Since the late 1970s, over 250 anti-abortion violent crimes have been reported to the extent that a 1997 Supreme Court case upheld a fixed 15-foot buffer zone around clinic doorways, driveways and parking lot entrances.

When the HIV/AIDS epidemic during the 1980s forced Americans to reconsider sexual issues beyond fertility, growing awareness about population control led abortion opponents to accuse advocates of racism and genetic discrimination. Despite limited evidence, the opposers began to spread conspiracy theories of an agenda to reduce the African American birth rate in the United States.

2007 - Justice Kennedy spoke for the majority to question women’s decision-making ability and argue that lawmakers could overrule a doctor’s medical judgement should “medical uncertainty” arise.

Crowning: the moment in birth when the baby’s head starts to emerge during each contraction

Following the Ferguson v. City of Charleston decision on the emphasis of confidentiality in the medical context, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg accused the majority of risking women's health and sabotaging their struggle for equality. She wrote, “[women's] ability to realize their full potential . . . is intimately connected to 'their ability to control their reproductive lives.'"

Notwithstanding, Justice Kennedy spoke for the majority in 2007 to question women’s decision-making ability and argue that lawmakers could overrule a doctor’s medical judgement should “medical uncertainty” arise. This was a direct hit against the rising pro-choice movement, considering his argument of “state’s interest in promoting human life at all states in the pregnancy” as above a woman’s interest in protecting her health.

Credits:

Created with images by John Looy - "Miracle Baby" • ArtisticOperations - "court building court house judge" • Jace Grandinetti - "untitled image" • Thought Catalog - "Birth control pills" • Mel Elías - "untitled image"

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