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“Keep abortion safe and legal” has long been a slogan of the movement to maintain funding for, and availability of, women’s health services. In particular, this phrase speaks to the history of unsafe, undocumented abortion procedures that are undertaken when the medical service is made illegal. The history of abortions in the United States has been a fraught one since it was outlined by Britain in 1803 and started to become coded into law in individual states starting in 1820. By the 1900 some states began included provisions in their laws to allow for abortions in cases of rape or incest; despite laws enacted against it, women continued (and continue) to have abortions, with one estimate putting the rate of illegal abortions in the 1950s and 1960s at between 200,000 and 1.2 million a year. Although some organizations, such as the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion or The Abortion Counseling Service of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union, helped women find care from trained professionals, unsafe “back alley” abortion procedures were all too common for women without access to funding or transportation.  Since reproductive rights took the stage alongside the women’s movement in the 1960s, it has continued to be a point of contention in the United States, both morally and legally. Organizations such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood champion this cause and fight for women’s right to “keep abortion safe and legal” in order to keep women safe and healthy.


Ravitz, J. (2016, June 27). The surprising history of abortion in the U.S. Retrieved from…

Catalog ID CA0744