One of the most personal of all decisions is whether to bear a child. When government plays any role in that decision, no matter what the role, the personal becomes political--and inevitably embroiled in controversy. That is what has happened to the abortion question, and that is why the anniversary observed today of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion is more than just another anniversary.
In this country's early days the government was relatively silent about abortion. But by the mid-19th Century laws were passed regulating abortion to protect women's health in a time of less-than-antiseptic medical practices and to keep non-professionals from performing the operations. Those laws were later preserved with the aid of religious organizations that viewed abortion as immoral.
By 1973 the tide of opinion had changed. Abortion, while not necessarily a favored method of preventing an unwanted pregnancy, was viewed by many as a private decision.
The Roe vs. Wade decision, striking down a Texas anti-abortion law, stirred forces that have yet to be stilled. Their influence may be waning, however. They rarely have the strength today to pass their initiatives, especially on the federal level. They do retain great power to block legislation and to curtail the spending of federal money on abortions for poor women.