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Timeline of reproductive rights legislation

Timeline of reproductive rights legislation, a chronological list of laws and legal decisions affecting human reproductive rights. Reproductive rights are a sub-set of human rights[1] pertaining to issues of reproduction and reproductive health.[2] These rights may include some or all of the following: the right to legal or safe abortion, the right to birth control, the right to access quality reproductive healthcare, and the right to education and access in order to make reproductive choices free from coercion, discrimination, and violence.[3] Reproductive rights may also include the right to receive education about contraception and sexually transmitted infections, and freedom from coerced sterilization, abortion, and contraception, and protection from gender-based practices such as female genital cutting (FGC) and male genital mutilation (MGM).[1][2][3][4]


17th century to 19th centuryEdit

1910s to 1960sEdit

1970s to presentEdit

  • 1970 – Hawaii, New York, Alaska and Washington repealed their abortion laws and allowed abortion on demand; South Carolina and Virginia reformed their abortion laws based on the ALI Model Penal Code.[citation needed]
  • 1970 – Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970 Pub.L. 91–572, which established the Public Health Service Title X program in the United States, providing family planning services for those in need.[31][32]
  • 1970 - The U.S. Congress removed references to contraception from federal anti-obscenity laws.[33]
  • 1971 – The Indian Parliament under the Prime Ministership of Indira Gandhi, passes Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 (MTP Act 1971). India thus becomes one of the earliest nations to pass this Act. The Act gains importance, considering India had traditionally been a very conservative country in these matters. Most notably there was no similar Act in several US states around the same time.[34]
  • 1972 – Florida reformed its abortion law based on the ALI MPC.
  • 1972 - The U.S. Supreme Court, in Eisenstadt v. Baird extends Griswold v. Connecticut birth control rights to unmarried couples.
  • 1973 – The U.S. Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, declared all the individual state bans on abortion during the first trimester to be unconstitutional, allowed states to regulate but not proscribe abortion during the second trimester, and allowed states to proscribe abortion during the third trimester unless abortion is in the best interest of the woman's physical or mental health. The Court legalized abortion in all trimesters when a woman's doctor believes the abortion is necessary for her physical or mental health and held that only a "compelling state interest" justified regulations limiting the individual right to privacy.
  • 1973 - Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973), was a decision of the United States Supreme Court overturning the abortion law of Georgia. The Supreme Court's decision was released on January 22, 1973, the same day as the decision in the better-known case of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973). Doe v. Bolton challenged Georgia's much more liberal abortion statute.
  • 1973–1980 – France (1975), West Germany (1976), New Zealand (1977), Italy (1978), and the Netherlands (1980) legalized abortion in limited circumstances. (France : no elective -for non-medical reasons- abortion allowed after 10–12 weeks gestation)
  • 1974 - McGee v. The Attorney General [1974] IR 284 was a case in the Irish Supreme Court in 1974 that referenced Article 41 of the Irish Constitution.[35][36] It concerned Mary McGee, whose condition was such that she was advised by her physician that if she would become pregnant again her life would be endangered. She was then instructed to use a diaphragm and spermicidal jelly that was prescribed to her.[37] However, Section 17 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935 prohibited her from acquiring the prescription. The Supreme Court ruled by a 4 to 1 majority in favor of her, after determining that married couples have the constitutional right to make private decisions on family planning.[37]
  • 1975 - On February 19, 1975 the Texas Supreme Court's ruling in the case Jacobs v. Theimer made Texas the first state in America to declare a woman could sue her doctor for a wrongful birth.[38][39][40] That case involved Dortha Jean Jacobs (later Dortha Biggs), who caught rubella while pregnant and gave birth to Lesli, who was severely disabled.[40][38] Dortha and her husband sued her doctor, saying he did not diagnose the rubella or warn them how it would affect the pregnancy.[40]
  • 1976–1977– Representative Henry Hyde of Illinois sponsors the Hyde Amendment, which passes, allows states to prohibit the use of Medicaid funding for abortions.
  • 1978 - US Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed, prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.[41]
  • 1979 – The People's Republic of China enacted a one-child policy, to alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems in China,[42] encouraging many couples to have at most one child, and in some cases imposing penalties for violating the policy.
  • 1979 – Ireland, Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979 allowed sale of contraceptives, upon presentation of a prescription.
  • 1980 - In William v. Zbaraz, the United States Supreme Court upheld that states could constitutionally make their own versions of the anti-abortion Hyde Amendment, and that states/the federal government have no statutory or constitutional obligation to fund medically necessary abortions.
  • 1983 – The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, which recognized "the unborn" as having a right to life equal to that of "the mother",[43] was passed.[44]
  • 1985 – Ireland, Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Act, 1985 allowed sale of condoms and spermicides to people over 18 without having to present a prescription.
  • 1985 - United Kingdom, Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 made female genital mutilation a crime throughout the UK. The Act was replaced by the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 and the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005 respectively, both of which extend the legislation to cover acts committed by UK nationals outside of the UK's borders.
  • 1988 – France legalized the "abortion pill" mifepristone (RU-486).
  • 1988 – In R. v. Morgentaler, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the abortion regulation which allowed abortions in some circumstances but required approval of a committee of doctors for violating a woman's constitutional "security of person"; Canadian law has not regulated abortion ever since.
  • 1989 – Webster v. Reproductive Health Services in the United States reinforces the state's right to prevent all publicly funded facilities from providing or assisting with abortion services.
  • 1990 – The Abortion Act in the UK was amended so that abortion is legal only up to 24 weeks, rather than 28, except in unusual cases.
  • 1992 – In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court overturned the trimester framework in Roe v. Wade, making it legal for states to proscribe abortion after the point of fetal viability, excepting instances that would risk the woman's health.
  • 1992 – The Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland was passed, specifying that the protection of the right to life of the unborn does not limit freedom of travel in and out of the state.
  • 1992 – The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland was passed, specifying that the protection of the right to life of the unborn does not limit the right to distribute information about services in foreign countries.
  • 1992 – Attorney General v. X (the "X case"), [1992] IESC 1; [1992] 1 IR 1, was a landmark Irish Supreme Court case which established the right of Irish women to an abortion if a pregnant woman's life was at risk because of pregnancy, including the risk of suicide. However, Supreme Court Justice Hugh O'Flaherty, now retired, said in an interview with the Irish Times that the X Case was "peculiar to its own particular facts", since X miscarried and did not have an abortion, and this renders the case moot in Irish law.[45] (See below events in 2012/2013).
  • 1993 – Ireland - Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Act, 1992 allowed sale of contraceptives without prescription.
  • 1993 – Poland banned abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, severe congenital disorders, or threat to the life of the pregnant woman.
  • 1994– Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act is passed by the United States Congress to forbid the use of force or obstruction to prevent someone from providing or receiving reproductive health services.
  • 1997 – In South Africa, the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1996 comes into effect, allowing abortion on demand. The Abortion and Sterilization Act, 1975, which only allowed abortions in very limited circumstances, is repealed.
  • 1998 – In Christian Lawyers Association and Others v Minister of Health and Others, the Transvaal Provincial Division of the High Court of South Africa upholds the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, holding that the Constitution of South Africa does not forbid abortions.[46]
  • 1998 – In Portugal, legalization of abortion until 10 weeks of pregnancy is rejected by voters in a referendum. A second referendum was eventually held nine years later, in which voters approved legalization of abortion with the same time restrictions.
  • 1999 – In the United States, Congress passed a ban on intact dilation and extraction, which President Bill Clinton vetoed.
  • 2000 – Mifepristone (RU-486) approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In Stenberg v. Carhart, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned a Nebraska state law that banned intact dilation and extraction.
  • 2000 - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided insurance for prescription drugs to their employees but excluded birth control were violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[47]
  • 2003 – The U.S. enacted the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and President George W. Bush signed it into law. After the law was challenged in three appeals courts, the U.S. Supreme Court held that it was constitutional because, unlike the earlier Nebraska state law, it was not vague or overly broad. The court also held that banning the procedure did not constitute an "undue burden," even without a health exception. (see also: Gonzales v. Carhart)
  • 2003 - The Supreme Court of Indiana recognized the medical malpractice tort of "wrongful pregnancy" when a woman became pregnant after a failed sterilization procedure. The court decided that the damages may include the cost of the pregnancy but may not include the ordinary cost of raising the child, as the benefits of rearing the child could not be calculated.[48]
  • 2005 – The U.S. Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (implemented in January 2007) prevented college health centers and many health care providers from participating in the drug pricing discount program, which formerly allowed contraceptives to be sold to students and women of low income in the United States at low cost.
  • 2007 – The Parliament of Portugal voted to legalize abortion during the first ten weeks of pregnancy. This followed a referendum that, while revealing that a majority of Portuguese voters favored legalization of early-stage abortions, failed due to low voter turnout.[49] The second referendum passed, however, and President Cavaco Silva signed the measure into effect in April, 2007.[50][51]
  • 2007 – The government of Mexico City legalizes abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and offers free abortions. On August 28, 2008, the Mexican Supreme Court upholds the law.[52]
  • 2007 – The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.[53]
  • 2008– The Australian state of Victoria passes a bill which decriminalizes abortion, making it legally accessible to women in the first 24 weeks of the pregnancy.[54]
  • 2009 – In Spain a bill decriminalizes abortion, making it legally accessible to women in the first 14 weeks of the pregnancy.[55]
  • 2010 - In Chile, came into force the Morning After Pill Law, which set the rules on information, advice and services relating to fertility regulation, allowing the free distribution of the pill in all country public clinics.[56]
  • 2011 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services established the policy, effective 2012, that all private insurance plans are required to provide contraceptive coverage to women without a co-pay or deductible.[57][58]
  • 2012 – In the Philippines, the Congress of the Philippines passed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 which guarantees universal access to contraception, fertility control and maternal care. The bill also mandates the teaching of sexual education in schools.[59][60]
  • 2012 – Uruguay legalizes abortion in the first trimester, making it legally accessible to women.[61]
  • 2014 - Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, 573 U.S. ___ (2014), is a landmark decision[62][63] by the United States Supreme Court allowing closely held for-profit corporations to be exempt from a law its owners religiously object to if there is a less restrictive means of furthering the law's interest. It is the first time that the court has recognized a for-profit corporation's claim of religious belief,[64] but it is limited to closely held corporations.[a] The decision is an interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and does not address whether such corporations are protected by the free-exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. For such companies, the Court's majority directly struck down the contraceptive mandate, a regulation adopted by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requiring employers to cover certain contraceptives for their female employees, by a 5-4 vote.[65] The court said that the mandate was not the least restrictive way to ensure access to contraceptive care, noting that a less restrictive alternative was being provided for religious non-profits, until the Court issued an injunction 3 days later, effectively ending said alternative, replacing it with a government-sponsored alternative for any female employees of closely held corporations that do not wish to provide birth control.[66]
  • 2014 - McCullen v. Coakley, 573 U.S. ___ (2014), was a United States Supreme Court case. The Court unanimously held that Massachusetts' 35-feet fixed abortion buffer zones, established via amendments to that state's Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act, violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it limited free speech too broadly.
  • 2016 - Zubik v. Burwell was a case before the United States Supreme Court on whether religious institutions other than churches should be exempt from the contraceptive mandate, a regulation adopted by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires non-church employers to cover certain contraceptives for their female employees. Churches are already exempt under those regulations.[67] On May 16, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a per curiam ruling in Zubik v. Burwell that vacated the decisions of the Circuit Courts of Appeals and remanded the case "to the respective United States Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fifth, Tenth, and D.C. Circuits" for reconsideration in light of the "positions asserted by the parties in their supplemental briefs".[68] Because the Petitioners agreed that "their religious exercise is not infringed where they 'need to do nothing more than contract for a plan that does not include coverage for some or all forms of contraception'", the Court held that the parties should be given an opportunity to clarify and refine how this approach would work in practice and to "resolve any outstanding issues".[69] The Supreme Court expressed "no view on the merits of the cases."[70] In a concurring opinion, Justice Sotomeyer, joined by Justice Ginsburg noted that in earlier cases "some lower courts have ignored those instructions" and cautioned lower courts not to read any signals in the Supreme Court's actions in this case.[71]
  • 2014 - The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 (Irish: An tAcht um Chosaint na Beatha le linn Toirchis 2013 was signed into law on 30 July by Michael D. Higgins, the President of Ireland; it commenced on 1 January 2014.[72][73][74] The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 [75] Act No.35 of 2013;[75] previously Bill No.66 of 2013[76]) is an Act of the Oireachtas which defined the circumstances and processes within which abortion in Ireland could be legally performed. The Act gave effect in statutory law to the terms of the Constitution of Ireland as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the 1992 judgment Attorney General v. X (the "X case"). That judgment (see above events in 1992) allowed for abortion where pregnancy endangers a woman's life, including through a risk of suicide.
  • 2016 - Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, 579 U.S. ___ (2016), was a United States Supreme Court case decided on June 27, 2016, when the Court ruled 5-3 that Texas cannot place restrictions on the delivery of abortion services that create an undue burden for women seeking an abortion. It has been called the most significant abortion rights case before the Supreme Court since Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.[77]
  • The Obama administration issued guidance that informed states that ending Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood or other health-care providers that performed abortions might be against federal law. The Obama administration contended that Medicaid law permitted states to ban providers from the program only if the providers could not perform covered services or bill for those services. However, the Trump administration repealed this guidance in 2018.[78]
  • 2017 - The "Mexico City Policy" was reinstated by United States President Trump.[79] Trump not only reinstated the policy but expanded it, making it cover all global health organizations that receive U.S. government funding, rather than only family planning organizations that do, as was previously the case.[80]
  • 2017 - In Poland, a new law restricted emergency contraception by making it a prescription drug.[81]
  • 2017 - The Trump administration of the United States issued a ruling letting insurers and employers refuse to provide birth control if doing so went against their "religious beliefs" or "moral convictions".[82]
  • 2017 - Federal judge Wendy Beetlestone issued an injunction temporarily stopping the enforcement of the Trump administration ruling letting insurers and employers refuse to provide birth control if doing so went against their "religious beliefs" or "moral convictions".[82][83]
  • 2018 - The Trump administration repealed guidance issued in 2016 by the Obama administration, which had informed states that ending Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood or other health-care providers that performed abortions might be against federal law. The Obama administration had contended that Medicaid law permitted states to ban providers from the program only if the providers could not perform covered services or bill for those services.[78]
  • 2018 - The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, which recognized "the unborn" as having a right to life equal to that of "the mother",[43] was repealed by referendum.[44]
  • 2018 - National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra was a case before the Supreme Court of the United States addressing the constitutionality of California's FACT Act, which mandated that crisis pregnancy centers provide certain disclosures about state services. The law required that licensed centers post visible notices that other options for pregnancy, including abortion, are available from state-sponsored clinics. It also mandated that unlicensed centers post notice of their unlicensed status. The centers, typically run by Christian non-profit groups, challenged the act on the basis that it violated their free speech. After prior reviews in lower courts, the case was brought to the Supreme Court, asking "Whether the disclosures required by the California Reproductive FACT Act violate the protections set forth in the free speech clause of the First Amendment, applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment."[84] The Court ruled on June 26, 2018 in a 5–4 decision that the notices required by the FACT Act violate the First Amendment by targeting speakers rather than speech.[85]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Closely held" corporations are defined by the Internal Revenue Service as those which a) have more than 50% of the value of their outstanding stock owned (directly or indirectly) by 5 or fewer individuals at any time during the last half of the tax year; and b) are not personal service corporations. By this definition, approximately 90% of U.S. corporations are "closely held", and approximately 52% of the U.S. workforce is employed by "closely held" corporations. See Blake, Aaron (June 30, 2014). "A LOT of people could be affected by the Supreme Court's birth control decision – theoretically". The Washington Post. 
  1. ^ a b Freedman, Lynn P.; Stephen L. Isaacs (Jan–Feb 1993). "Human Rights and Reproductive Choice". Studies in Family Planning. Studies in Family Planning, Vol. 24, No. 1. 24 (1): 18–30. doi:10.2307/2939211. JSTOR 2939211. PMID 8475521. 
  2. ^ a b Cook, Rebecca J.; Mahmoud F. Fathalla (September 1996). "Advancing Reproductive Rights Beyond Cairo and Beijing". International Family Planning Perspectives. International Family Planning Perspectives, Vol. 22, No. 3. 22 (3): 115–121. doi:10.2307/2950752. JSTOR 2950752. 
  3. ^ a b Amnesty International USA (2007). "Stop Violence Against Women: Reproductive rights". SVAW. Amnesty International USA. Archived from the original on 2008-01-20. Retrieved 2007-12-08. 
  4. ^ Template
  5. ^ William Blackstone, Commentaries, 1:120--41 (1765).
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  7. ^ Lord Ellenborough’s Act." (1998). The Abortion Law Homepage. Retrieved February 20, 2007.
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  9. ^ "The Train That Crashed Through the Anti-Condom Law". Worker's Solidarity (101). January 2008. Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
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  21. ^ Proctor, Robert E. (1989). Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 366. ISBN 0-674-74578-7. OCLC 20760638. This emendation allowed abortion only if the woman granted permission, and only if the fetus was not old enough to survive outside the womb. It is unclear if either of these qualifications was enforced. 
  22. ^ Arnot, Margaret; Cornelie Usborne (1999). Gender and Crime in Modern Europe. New York City: Routledge. p. 241. ISBN 1-85728-745-2. OCLC 249726924. 
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  65. ^ See:
  66. ^ See:
  67. ^ Liptak, Adam (March 23, 2016). "Justices Seem Split in Case on Birth Control Mandate". The New York Times. 
  68. ^ Zubik v. Burwell, No. 14–1418, 578 U.S. ___, slip op. at 3, 5 (2016) (per curiam).
  69. ^ Zubik, slip op. at 3-4.
  70. ^ Zubik, slip op. at 4.
  71. ^ Zubik, slip op. at 2-3 (Sotomayor, J., concurring).
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  77. ^ Green, Emma (November 13, 2015). "A New Supreme Court Challenge: The Erosion of Abortion Access in Texas". Atlantic. Retrieved January 26, 2016. 
  78. ^ a b "Trump administration rescinds Obama guidance on defunding Planned Parenthood". TheHill. Retrieved 2018-01-22. 
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  84. ^ National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, SCOTUSblog.
  85. ^ "Supreme Court Sides With California Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Centers". Retrieved 2018-06-26. 

External linksEdit