The history of the pro-choice movement or the abortion rights movement dates back to January 22, 1973 in the US where the US’s Supreme Court struck down most of the state’s laws restricting abortion in the decision of Roe v. Wade. The court found that a mother had a right to abort until viability, a point to be determined by the abortion doctor. After the point of viability, a woman can obtain an abortion for other health reasons, which the Court defined broadly to include mental and emotional well-being in the decision Doe v. Bolton.
It is a social and political movement and people following the pro-choice movement believe that women should have control over their reproductive lives, their bodies and personal health as a legal fact and a fundamental right, and that abortion should be available to all women. It has given women rights over their bodies and their unborn children, meaning that no person in any women’s life, whether it’s her mother, husband or any family member has any kind of right over the woman’s pregnancy. The pro-choice movement has thus kept abortion safe, legal and accessible to women.
Before the pro-choice movement, abortion was seen as a criminal act in most states in the US. It was not seen as a constitutional subject but rather a state matter, having some kind of restrictions in every state. In 1820’s the first legal restrictions on abortion appeared, making abortion after the fourth month of pregnancy an act of crime. By 1900’s The American Medical Association, due to its force and power enacted laws forbidding abortion completely in most states of the US. They played a huge role in denouncing abortions by using their status and influence to demoralize abortion. The American Medical Association viewed abortion providers as unwanted healthcare competitors, arguing that they play with the lives of women and their unborn babies.
The uprising in favor of abortion started to emerge in 1960’s when a woman named Gerri Santoro of Connecticut (1964) died in an attempt to obtain an illegal abortion and her photo became the symbol of the pro-choice movement. Due to the high rates of maternal illnesses and tragic deaths caused by abortions performed in back alleys, mothers, physicians, nurses, and social workers pushed for decriminalization of abortion from a pro-public health perception. Certain movements and protests started going on demanding to legalize abortion and open clinics that provide professional help for them thus by giving women rights over their bodies. More and more people started to come forward and support for abortion rights went beyond feminists, physicians and nurses. Even certain religious leaders joined this cause and as a result the movement was named as “pro-choice”. They term pro-choice was adopted to highlight that their cause is women's choice, not abortion per se. Their agenda was not “pro-abortion” as claimed by many anti pro-choice movements, the biggest of them being “pro-life”.
Abortion rights groups are now active in all American states but only a few states permit abortion without any limitations. Most of them allow several restricted forms of abortion.