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Abortion is the deliberate process of terminating a pregnancy (fetus) that is in its early stages. A purposeful abortion is known as induced abortion or an induced miscarriage. Most women carry out abortion due to unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. The only question that remains unanswered is whether abortion is right or wrong. The subject of abortion has been controversial over the years, and it seems like there is still no answer to the question. Some people argue that abortion is evil, while others regard abortion as acceptable. Societies across the world are still in dilemma on which is the right route to follow when it comes to abortion. This analysis discusses the legislation of abortion and how abortion laws have evolved over the years. During that time, there have been significant landmark cases that contributed to the evolvement and development of abortion legislations.

Since ancient times, abortion has been in existence, with natural abortifacient found in every tribe around the world. However, earlier literature does not mention abortion or abortion law. In the few circumstances where the term appears, there is the mention of male property rights and the preservation of social order (Rose, 2008). Religious literature materials contained a harsh condemnation of abortion, and further recommended severe punishments to those who exercise this practice. As such, from the religious point of view, abortion was illegal. Most religions since ancient times believe that carrying out abortion is committing the sin of killing, a sin that is prohibited in the holy books such as the Bible and the Quran. Common laws in England and the US deemed abortion as illegal after quickening. Quickening is the period when the pregnant mother starts feeling the movements of the fetus in the womb (Glendon, 1987). Thus, the common law prohibited conducting abortion when the fetus in the womb starts moving; fetus movement was considered to start at 20 weeks.[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Evidently, the English common law permitted abortion before the fetus began a movement in the womb (Allegrucci & Kunz, 1991, p. 295). The legal history regarded, “quickening” as the beginning of the possession of the individual life by the fetus. It states that the law holds that as soon as the fetus can stir or move in the mother’s womb, then it has a “right to live” therefore, nobody is allowed to kill or abort it (Rose, 2008). However, quickening was one of the many several standards that were used in the ancient times to determine the time when the right to life attaches to the unborn. Another standard that was applied in the historical times was “formation of the fetus,” a stage that occurs some weeks before quickening starts (Rose, 2008). This measure considered that even before the fetus begins stirring in the mother’s womb, it is already alive; hence, it has the right to life. Under the English law, however, the “born alive” rule disregarded the fetus as a “reasonable being”; hence the English law did not treat abortion as a murder case.
In the wake of the 19th century, most Western nations started to codify abortion laws and put some restrictions on this practice (Glendon, 1987). In consequence, there were anti-abortion groups composed of religious groups and traditionalist who contested abortion on moral grounds. Similarly, medical practitioners disputed to abortion basing their stand on the dangers that come with the practice (Rose, 2008).
However, more reports revealed that illegal abortion was rampant even in societies where the practice was vehemently discouraged, and it was further challenging to obtain substantiation to arraign the women that were conducting this vice. Juries and the judges, on the other hand, were often reluctant to convict the suspects. The 20th century saw the enactment of many abortions related laws, and most of them restricted the practice (Rose, 2008). During that period, most countries began to liberalize abortion laws, and the laws defined the circumstances under which abortion should be conducted. In most countries, abortion is allowed when the health condition of the mother is compelling. Thus, such a case should be recommended by a doctor who knows the health status of the mother involved.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
According to Rose (2008), under the Abortion Act of 1967, the UK law allows abortion up to 24 weeks. Nevertheless, in case there is a forecasted risk to the mother’s life or fetal deformities, the time limit is infinite. The emergence of contraceptives in the 1950s and 60s led to a few changes in abortion laws. After the UK under Abortion Act of 1967 permitted abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, other countries followed suit, and they include Canada, the US, Tunisia, New Zealand, Italy, Netherlands, and Belgium (Glendon, 1987). Abortion is criminal law in nearly all states in Australia. Every state and territory have legislations that prohibit illegal abortion. However, in other states, the common law interpretations of the Crime Act have the effect of making the practice available to many mothers (Rose, 2008).
As Assifi, Berger, Tunçalp, Khosla, and Ganatra (2016) write, the earliest laws against abortion aimed at protecting mothers from inexperienced abortionists. It was noted that some people were helping pregnant women to abort, yet they were not well trained on safe abortion. These conditions led to adverse health conditions and sometimes death of the victims. Additional reports reveal that there was unregulated abortion during the 19th century and thus, death occurred as a result of complications of illegal and unsafe abortion (Assifi et al., 2016). It thus led to the criminalization of abortion towards the end of 19th century (Rose, 2008).
In 1821, the first legislative abortion law was ratified in Connecticut (Rose, 2008). The law aimed at protecting mothers from inducing abortion through poison after the fourth month of pregnancy. This was followed by rallies against abortion in 1856. In the protests, Horatio Storer, a prominent pro-life advocate, rallied the American Medical Association (AMA) against legal abortion. The Comstock Act, passed in 1873, banned access to information on abortion and birth control. In 1890, the AMA with the approval of various medical professionals, pushed for laws for abortion laws. The group assured and asserted that the procedure was entirely rsdsequired to save the life of the mother (Rose, 2008).[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]

More development on abortion legislation came in the mid-20th century when contraceptives came into existence. In 1963, the Society for Humane Abortion (SHA) challenged the law and compelled the provision of information about abortion and contraception (Rose, 2008). SHA wanted to create awareness among societies so that people would know what the law prohibits and legalize. It came as a result of the case Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965) where a certified physician was accused of giving information to a married couple and further instructing them on how they could avoid conception. The doctor also prescribed a contraceptive device for the mother (Rose, 2008).
Connecticut law stipulated that it was illegal for anyone to use any drug or offer information on preventing conception. The appellant to the case claimed that the statute violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the constitution. The complainant further claimed that by banning the usage of contraceptives, Connecticut law flouted the right to matrimonial privacy, as contained in the bill of rights of the US constitution (Rose, 2008). In the Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965) case, the US Supreme Court maintained that the constitution of the United States recognized and protected the right to privacy (Rose, 2008). By a vote of 7-2, the Supreme Court nullified the Connecticut Act which prohibited the sharing of any drug or information about contraception. The court invalidated this law by pointing out that it “violated the constitutional guarantee of marital privacy” (Scheb & Scheb, 2013, p. 81). Consequently, this case and others that followed viewed the right to privacy as a justified cause for protection from external influence.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
In 1967, Washington D.C. and the other 49 states classified abortion as a felony (Scheb & Scheb, 2013). One of the medical practitioners, Dr. Leon Belous, was convicted of referring a mother to an unlicensed abortionist. Consequently, in 1969, the Supreme Court of California made a ruling in favor of the right to choose abortion. The decision came at a time when President J. F. Kennedy formed a consultative council to review the status of women. JFK further advocated for the repeal of the abortion law. In 1972, the Supreme Court of the US allowed the use of contraceptive such as pills by all women regardless of their marital status. Initially, only married women were allowed to use birth control measures through physicians’ prescriptions (Scheb & Scheb, 2013).
Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) is another famous case in the history of the US. It contributed much to the evolution of the abortion laws in America. It also improved on the Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965) case (Allegrucci & Kunz, 1991). In Roe v. Wade, the court ruled 7-2 votes, stating that “the right of privacy was broad enough to include a woman’s decisions to terminate her pregnancy” (Scheb & Scheb, 2013, p. 82). However, the court asserted that this right must be balanced against the state’s interests in regulating abortion. While arguing for state interests which are stronger than the course of the pregnancy, Roe v. Wade case sought to balance test through state regulations of abortion (Allegrucci & Kunz, 1991).
In the quest of prohibiting most states and the federal governments on restricting the practice of abortion in the US; Roe v. Wade case emerged, and it triggered a national debate that has been existence till nowadays about the issue of whether and to what extent should the practice of abortion be legalized (Allegrucci & Kunz, 1991). There are also the questions on who should legalize it and what techniques should be applied by the Supreme Court in adjudicating the law. There are also concerns on the religious and ethical perspective concerning this practice. The Supreme Court issues its decision on January 22nd, 1973, with a vote of 7-2, and the decision favored Roe. The court ruled this case by basing its decision on the fact that abortion is a fundamental right in the US constitution (Allegrucci & Kunz, 1991). Thus, it subjected all legislations that attempted to restrict it to strict scrutiny.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
Another case related to the above case at the same time was Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973) (Eig & Thomas, 2016). With the ruling happening on the same day with Roe v. Wade, it involved the Supreme Court annulling the abortion law in the state of Georgia. Doe v. Boltoncase challenges Georgia’s conservative laws about abortion. Georgia’ legislation on abortion only allowed abortion in cases such as severe fetal deformity, a case of rape, and also if the continued pregnancy would risk the life of the expectant mother. The plaintiff, Mary Doe, sued Georgia’s AG, Arthur Bolton, for his role in enforcing Georgia’s abortion law (Eig & Thomas, 2016).

Ever since the Supreme Court’s 1973 rulings in both Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, both states have passed many legislations on abortion (Davenport, n.d.). They have codified, regulated. and limited whether, when and under what conditions should a mother obtain an abortion permit. The US Supreme Court ruled Doe v. Bolton and Roe v. Wade cases declaring that abortion act is a right to privacy issue, therefore, rendered therapeutic abortion boards to be unconstitutional (Allegrucci & Kunz, 1991). During the 1970s, over 20 states in the US had enacted abortion reforms laws. States such as Hawaii, Washington, and New York legalized abortion practice. as Allegrucci and Kunz (1991) further write, the Supreme Court ruled in Doe v. Bolton that policies formulated to deny women access to abortion went against women’s rights to health care and that of medical professionals to practice their career.[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
            Planned Parenthood v. Danforth, 428 U.S. 52 (1976) was another milestone case in the history of abortion law. In this case, the petitioner disputed the legality of the Missouri law that delimited abortion (Eig & Thomas, 2016). In response, the Supreme Court averred the right abortion, citing the law of Missouri that demanded a prior written approval from the parents of the minor or the partner in case the victim is married. The plaintiff brought litigation against District of Missouri seeking a court injunction relief. The district court maintained that section 6(1) of the act in question was unconstitutional – it outlined the safety measures to be followed by individuals performing an abortion (Eig & Thomas, 2016). These measures were for the sole purpose of safeguarding the fetus. In consequence, the court nullified previous provisions of Missouri statute that required the consent of spouses and parents before an abortion is conducted.
The court upheld the record keeping requirement held by the statute for the physicians conducting the act. However, regarding spousal consent, the lower court’s pronouncement was sustained. Thus, Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth added value to the development and evolution of the abortion-related laws. After this case, a woman had a right to abort without the consent of the parents or the spouse because it is a right to privacy. According to the ruling of this case. No woman should be forced to bring the spouse’s consent or parents for her to abort, but it is just an individual decisions as long she deems it right (Eig & Thomas, 2016). However, the court insisted the fact that there should be record keeping by the medical professionals in the cases of abortion because this information is quite important because it can be used in many ways. Health care records information is very much important to both the government and other institutions because the stakeholders for planning to use it and also references (Rose, 2008).
In the Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297 (1980) case, federal reimbursement was involved (Eig & Thomas, 2016). In the decision, the law restricted states that carried out Medicaid from funding medically necessary abortions. Prior to the ruling, there was the Hyde Amendment that limited the use of federal resources. The Supreme Court further stipulated that the subsidy restrictions of the Hyde Amendment recognized both the First and the Fifth amendments. The foundation of this decision was based on a 1965 Congress amendment of Title XIX of the Social Security Act and gave birth to the Medicaid program (Eig & Thomas, 2016). This is a voluntary program that aims to prod-code federal funds for particular medical expenses of the indigent. In 1976 when an action was brought seeking to direct the implementation of the Hyde Amendment limitations, the district court gave an injunction in 1980 and found that the Hyde Amendments disregarded the Fifth Amendment due process clause and the First amendment of the establishment clause.[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
The court ruled that the by states participating in matters of healthcare programs, they were not supposed to fund the required abortions under Title XIX (Rose, 2008). Thus, the court declared that a woman’s freedom of choice did not extend to the constitutional entitlement to the finances of the state. The court further pronounced that since equal protection clause was not the origin of substantive rights and given the fact that poverty does not qualify to suspect classification, then the Hyde amendments has not gone against the fifth amendments. Therefore, through Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297 (1980) case, the abortion law also evolved in that the pregnant mother was not entitled to use the state resources through Medicaid program to perform an abortion (Eig & Thomas, 2016). In simplified terms, if a woman intends to carry out an abortion, she is supposed to use her resources but not the Medicaid resources provided by the states.
            Akron v. Akron (1983) is another landmark case about abortion that contributes to the development of the abortion legislation that we have today (Eig & Thomas, 2016). Under this case, the Supreme Court of the US asserted its abortion rights jurisprudence. This case led to the striking down of several provision of the Akron center for reproductive health regulations (Eig & Thomas, 2016). The hospital provision was first, the abortion after the first trimester be conducted in a hospital. The court ruled provision to be unconstitutional basing on the actual fact that whereas the state has a compelling interest in monitoring abortion after the first trimester, the accepted medical practice does not allow all other second trimester abortions be conducted in a hospital. Thus, the court noted that this regulation imposed an unnecessary burden that can lead to the infringement of the constitutional right to abortion.
            Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989) case, a state-employed health care professional filed a law sued in the district court for declaratory and injunctive relief trying to challenge the constitutionality of Missouri statute legislation that tended to regulate the practice of abortion (Eig & Thomas, 2016). The Missouri statute holds that life of every human being starts at conception, therefore; the unborn have protectable interests in life and have a right to life too like any other person. Section 2 of the same legislation demand that all state laws should be well comprehended for the law to give the unborn children similar rights to those of the other individuals. The statutes also prohibited the state employed physicians from carrying out the abortion of the fetus they believe to be viable. The legislation also prohibited the use of public funds workers or facilities for counseling woman who has had an abortion except in a situation where her life was in danger.
In ruling the case, the court overturned the ruling of the lower courts. It based its overturning on the fact that first, the lower courts were not supposed to consider the constitutionality of the law’s because it is used in the justification of the abortion regulations otherwise rendered invalid about case Roe V. Wade (1973) (Allegrucci & Kunz, 1991). Therefore, this case saw some development in the abortion legislation that the Supreme Court upheld the Missouri law of imposing some limitations on the utilization of state resources in helping in or advising of the woman who has had an abortion. Thus, the Supreme Court authorized the states to enact the abortion laws.

The 1990s saw radical development in the abortion laws. For example, in the Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey 505 U.S. 833 (1992) case supporters of either side of abortion were left confused when the Supreme Court ruled this case. In this case, the court argued that abortion guidelines present an undue burden on a woman’s constitutionality proper will have to be rendered invalid. Through this case’s ruling, the woman who wanted to abort was much relieved because the court meant that any burden such a woman may be subjected to due to the unnecessary legislation would be removed.
1994 saw President Clinton enacting the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (Rose, 2008). The bill, also known as the abortion clinic protection bill, was designed to protect abortion clinics from the attacks and intimidations acts by pro-life protesters. When the President signed the president was a clear indication to show that America was not against abortion. At the wake of the new century in the year 2000, the food and drug administration approved abortion pill RU- 486. This drug enabled a woman who wanted to abort to end the pregnancy inside seven weeks from her last time of menstruation. In 2003, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was signed into law by President Bush (Eig & Thomas, 2016). The law forbade the procedure, popularly referred to as Intact Dilation and Evacuation (Dilation and Extraction).[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]

In 2004, more than 800,000 protesters gathered in Washington to demonstrate on what was known as “March for women’s lives” (Rohlinger, 2014). The protesters condemned Bush’s reproductive rights health. Later on in 2007, the US Supreme Court upheld the partial-birth abortion law (Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act). Moving on to 2009, President Obama prohibited international family planning programs from using (or misusing) US foreign aids to provide abortions (Cohen, 2011). In 2011, voters in Mississippi rejected the personhood amendment (Amendment 26) to the constitution, an amendment that would have outlawed all kinds of abortions, including the rape cases and incest (Thomson-DeVeaux, 2011). Lastly, in 2014, the Supreme Court sustained Obama’s Affordable Care Act (Obama care).

Abortion legislations are not new legislation, but they have been in existence for more than two centuries. However, these laws have undergone an evolution with time in that in the modem days; they are well defined. However, the legality of abortion has not yet been accepted by every society in the US also around the world. Some countries in other regions prohibit abortion act. However, their legislations give some relief such as when they are a compelling medical condition that can risk the life of the mother then abortion is allowed. In most countries, induced abortion is a criminal offense in that suspects can face the wrath of the law when found committing the act. As much as the issue of abortion is now acceptable in America in the modem days, the groups such as religious groups especially the Catholics are still against basing on the biblical doctrines for the respect of life. The abortion legislation in America and other parts of the world would still evolve, and we expect in future to take a more different direction.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]


Allegrucci, L. J., & Kunz, P. E. (1991). The future of Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court: Devolution of the right of abortion and resurgence of state control. Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development7(1), 295-327.

Assifi, A. R, Berger, B., Tunçalp, Ö., Khosla, R., & Ganatra, B. (2016). Women’s awareness and knowledge of abortion laws: A systematic review. PLOS ONE11(3), e0152224.

Baum, S. E., White, K., Hopkins, K., Potter, J. E., & Grossman, D. (2016). Women’s experience obtaining abortion care in Texas after implementation of restrictive abortion laws: A qualitative study. PLOS ONE11(10), 1-14.

Cohen, S. A. (2011). U.S. overseas family planning program, perennial victim of abortion politics, is once again under siege.

Davenport, M. L. (n.d.). Is late-term abortion ever necessary? 
Eig, L. M., & Thomas, K. R. (Eds.). (2016). Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis & interpretation 2014. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

Glendon, M. A. (1987). Abortion and divorce in Western law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Gonzalez, R., Requejo, J. H., Nien, J. K., Merialdi, M., Bustreo, F., & Betran, A. P. (2009). Tackling health inequities in Chile: Maternal, newborn, infant, and child mortality between 1990 and 2004. American Journal of Public Health99(7), 1220-1226.

Plank, S. J., & Milanesi, M. L. (1923). Infant feeding and infant mortality. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association80(1), 46.

Rohlinger, D. A. (2014). Abortion politics, mass media, and social movements in America. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Rosenfield, A., Charo, R. A., & Chavkin, W. (2008). Moving forward on reproductive health. New England Journal of Medicine359(18), 1869-1871.

Rose, M. (2008). Abortion: A documentary and reference guide. Westport, CT.: Greenwood Press.

Tatalovitch, R., & Schier, D. (1993). The persistence of ideological cleavage in voting on abortion legislation in the House of Representatives, 1973-1988. American Politics Quarterly21(1), 125-139.

Thomson-DeVeaux, A. (2011). Why Mississippi’s voters rejected the “personhood” amendment.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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