Chronography of Abortion
Page last modified 19/8/2021
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30/12/2020, Abortion was legalised in Argentina.
14/5/2019, The US State of Alabama passed very restrictive abortion laws,
25/5/2018, Ireland voted to legalise abortion by a large majority of 66.4%. This left Northern Ireland as rather an anomaly, with its strict anti-abortion laws, whilst abortion was now legal in both Ireland and Great Britain. However the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, whose support Mrs Theresa May, British Conservative PM, needed to remain in power, was like all other NI Parties, anti-abortion.
2007, Portugal legalised abortion.
2002, Switzerland decriminalised abortion.
7/3/2002, In a Referendum in Ireland, the legalisation of abortion was narrowly rejected.
10/3/1993, Dr David Gunn, gynaecologist, was murdered by an anti-abortion campaigner.
25/4/1990. The UK Parliament reduced the time limit for abortion from 28 to 24 weeks. There were certain exceptions, such as danger to the mother�s health.
3/4/1990, In Belgium, King Baudoin temporarily abdicated to allow the passing of a law legalising abortion, which he refused to sign on principle.
30/4/1987, In Britain, the Court of Appeal ruled that a man could not prevent a woman who was carrying his child from having an abortion.
17/10/1985, In Britain, the House of Lords voted to allow doctors to prescribe contraceptives to girls aged under 16 without parental consent, despite a campaign against this by Catholic mother Mrs Victoria Gillick.
26/7/1983, Mrs Victoria Gillick lost her case in the High Court to prevent doctors prescribing contraceptives to girls under 16 without parental consent.
17/5/1981, In a referendum, Italy voted to legalise abortion.
20/6/1977, The US Supreme Court ruled that States were not required to fund elective abortions on Medicaid.
1975, French anti-abortion laws were liberalised.
5/1974, In Britain, family planning advice was available free on the NHS. Shadow Home Secretary Sir Keith Joseph caused controversy, and was even accused of resurrecting WW2 eugenics, when he expressed concern that the highest birth rate was amongst the poor and least educated.
22/1/1973, The US Supreme Court ruled, in Roe vs Wade; a ruling that resulted in the liberalisation of abortion laws, so women had the freedom to choose a private abortion. Abortion was subsequently legalised in France (1975) and Italy (1977). The actual case was between Henry Wade, Dallas County District Attorney, and Norma McCorvey; McCorvey�s name was disguised as Jane Roe.
1/4/1972. Hounslow Borough Council began to offer free contraception on the rates. There was no restriction on the type of contraception nor on the marital status of the applicants; they only had to be aged 16 or over and resident in Hounslow.
1971, Italy legalised the sale of birth control information and contraceptives.
5/1969, Canada legalised abortion and contraception.
27/4/1968. Abortion was legalised in Britain, as the 1967 Abortion Act became Law. The Liberal MP David Steel had introduced the Abortion Act to Parliament. In the 10 months 25/4/1968 to 25/2/1969, the UK had 28.859 abortions, and by July 1969 they were averaging over 1,000 per week in England and Wales. The NHS paid for 60% of the cost of an abortion.
1967, France repealed its 1920 law which forbade the sale of contraceptives. Earlier, in 1956, Dr Marie-Andree Weill-Halle started the Mouvement Francais pour le Planning Familial. She also set up technically illegal family planning clinics in France, to which the Government turned a blind eye. The first such clinic opened in Grenoble in 1961 and by 1966 there were 200 such clinics across France. Contraceptives were (illegally) imported from the UK by plain postage to clients.
27/10/1967, The UK�s Abortion Act received Royal Assent.
25/10/1967. UK Parliament passed the Abortion Act, decriminalising abortion.
14/7/1967. Parliament in the UK voted to legalise abortion. This was after a record 64 hour debate. The 1967 Abortion Act allowed for the legal termination of pregnancy if two registered doctors believed that continuation of the pregnancy could damage the physical or mental health of the woman, or of members of her family, or where there was substantial risk of the baby being born with physical or mental abnormalities. The normal time linit was the 24th week of pregnancy, unless there was grave danger to the mother.
25/4/1967, Colorado became the first US State to liberalise its abortion laws. Abortion was now permissible in the case of rape or incest, where the woman�s physical or mental health was in danger, or was likely to result in a child with severe mental or physical issues. The abortion had to be performed in a licenced hospital with the approval of three physicians.
19/2/1966. Lord Silkin�s Bill to legalise abortion ran into difficulties in the House of Lords.
1964, A dozen US States now had tax-funded birth-control programmes. These were mainly in the soutern USA, where Catholic influence was weaker and Whites desired to hold down higher Black birth rates. Overall the US hosted 450 birth control clinics. In 1965 the US hosted 700 birth control clinics, with 33 States giving, or about to give, tax funding to birth control programmes.In 1965 Connecticut�s 1879 law prohibiting the sale of birth control devices was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
4/12/1961. The birth control pill became available on the National Health Service.
30/1/1961. The contraceptive pill went on sale in Britain. It was called Conovid, see 18/10/1960.
18/10/1960, The first approved contraceptive pill, called Enovid 10, went on sale in the USA; it was only available to married couples. Catholics objected. See 30/1/1961.
9/5/1960, The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)approved a birth control pill. By 1965 some 5 million US wpomen were using the Pill.
18/8/1960. The birth control pill, the world�s first oral contraceptive, was launched in America.
2/10/1958, Marie Stopes, promoter of birth control, died (born 1880).
1955, Legalised abortion was restored in the USSR, although both abortion and birth control were discouraged.
5/10/1951, The oral contraceptive was patented
1948, Japan legalised abortion, over concerns about continued population growth; the population of Japan had risen from 64 million in 1930 to almost 80 million in 1948.
1940, US President Roosevelt publically endorsed birth control.
1936, The 1920 legalisation of abortion in the USSR was reversed; abortion was now only permissible if the woman�s life was in danger or the child was likely to have some certain specified inherited disease.
1936, Ireland made it a felony to sell, import or advertise any form of birth control.
28/1/1935. Iceland became the first country to legalise abortion, on medical grounds, under Law no.38, allowing abortion at up to 28 weeks if there was a threat to the mental or physical health of the mother. Most subsequent abortion laws followed this pattern. However in Ireland the import or sale of contraceptives became illegal.
1930, Italy, under Mussolini, made abortion �a crime against the integrity and health of the race�; however illegal abortions in Italy continued at more than 500,000 a year.
14/8/1930, The Church of England grudgingly accepted birth control.
15/10/1927. Britain�s Public Morals Committee attacked the use of contraceptives for �causing poor hereditary
1924, The practice of birth control was endorsed by the New York Obstetrical Society, the New York Academy of Medicine and the American Medical Association.
17/3/1921. First birth control clinic opened in Holloway, London, by Marie Stopes.
1921, Abortion was made illegal in Argentina, except in cases of rape or where the mnother�s life was at risk.
1920, Abortion was made illegal in France, because of population losses suffered in World War One. However the law was widely flouted and by 1970 there were 500,000 illegal abortions a year in France, with botched operations causing some 500 deaths per year. Moreover, all publicity for birth-control, and the dale of contraceptives, was also banned.
1920, The American Birth Control League was founded (see 10/9/1916).
1920, Abortion was legalised in the USSR.
16/10/1916, The first brth-control clinic outside The Netherlands was opened at 46 Amboy Street,� Brooklyn, New York, by Margaret Sanger. She distributed leaflets in English, Italian and Yiddish to advertise the clinic.She was arrested and jailed for 30 days. After her release she founded the New York Birth Control League (see 1920) and began publishing Birth Control Review.
1878, The world�s first birth control clinic opened in Amsterdam by Dutch suffragist leader Aletta Jacobs, aged 29. She was also the first female physician to practice in The Netherlands.
1873, In the US, the Comstock Act authorised the postal services to restrict dissemination of information about contraception,even from doctors.
1872, Germany enacted a new law punishing abortion by up to 5 years in prison.
1/11/1872, US Congress passed the Comstock Law, prohibiting the transport or postage of any article intended to prevent conception or to cause abortion. The law was named after New York moralist Anthony Comstock, aged 28, head of the Society for the Suppression of Vice.
1/10/1847, Annie Besant, social reformer and theosophist, was born. With radical atheist Charles Bradlaugh, she promoted birth control, for which she was prosecuted.
1830, Abortion was made a statutory crime in the USA.
1814, France made abortion illegal except where the life of the mother was gravely threatened.
1803, In Britain, abortion, alrady an offence under Canon law, was made a statutory crime.
28/4/1780, The first advertisement for an abortion clinic appeared on the back page of London�s Morning Post. The address was 23, Fleet Street, London.
500 BCE, Abortion was commonly practised by the ancient Romans and Greeks,to the extent that the plant used to induce it, silphium, became� extinct (silphium was supposedly hard to cultivate, and animal grazing also likely caused the end of the species).
1550 BCE, The Egyptian Ebers Papyrus comntained a recipe for inducing abortion, as a form of birth control.
1700 BCE, Abortion in Mesopotamia was prohibited under the Hammurabi Code.
3000 BCE, Chinese Emperor Shennong reputedly gave his concubines mercury to induce abortions.