Roe v. Wade and the Roots of State-Level Abortion Coverage

In the January 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decisions Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the Court affirmed that the decision to terminate a pregnancy was a fundamental right conferred by the Constitution, to be made solely by a woman and her doctor, and that after the first trimester, any abortion regulation must serve the purpose of preserving or protecting maternal health. These rulings left many states without valid abortion legislation.

The editors of Perspectives discussed the recent decisions in the introduction to the journal’s winter 1973 issue. Noting that the effects of the rulings on the actions of the state legislatures remained to be seen, they expressed the hope that they would be able to present a “state-by-state analysis of the abortion picture as it has been modified by the decisions” at a later date. Indeed, this idea marks the beginning of the journal’s commitment to covering state analyses of the abortion climate; much of the related research conducted in the decades since 1973 has been published in Perspectives. The most recent state-level report appeared in 2017.

Cover illustrations of Margaret Sanger © Matthew and Eve Levine