The History Behind Arizona’s 160-Year-Old Abortion Ban

The state’s Supreme Court ruled that the 1864 law is enforceable today. Here is what led to its enactment.

By Pam Belluck
April 10, 2024

The 160-year-old Arizona abortion ban that was upheld on Tuesday by the state’s highest court was among a wave of anti-abortion laws propelled by some historical twists and turns that might seem surprising.

For decades after the United States became a nation, abortion was legal until fetal movement could be felt, usually well into the second trimester. Movement, known as quickening, was the threshold because, in a time before pregnancy tests or ultrasounds, it was the clearest sign that a woman was pregnant.


USA – Dozens of ‘friend of the court’ briefs backing abortion pill access arrive at Supreme Court

FEBRUARY 2, 2024

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has been inundated with dozens of organizations seeking to weigh in on the future of the abortion pill by filing “friend of the court” briefs.

The groups include governors, attorneys general, state lawmakers and members of Congress as well as medical organizations, civil rights groups and pharmaceutical companies — all of whom argue the justices’ ruling will have significant effects on American society and health care.

“Turning back the clock to reimpose unnecessary restrictions on mifepristone will exacerbate existing inequities in maternal health for women of color, low-income women, and those living in rural areas,” wrote a group of more than 16 medical organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and The American Medical Association.


How the Far-Right Shaped Abortion Care Long Before ‘Roe’ Was Overturned

Naomi Braine's book Abortion Beyond the Law digs into how self-managed abortion emerges from new technologies while building on previous feminist movements.

NOV 14, 2023

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, they upended a way of organizing medical care—and life—that women of reproductive age in the United States largely took for granted. In June 2022, when the Dobbs decision was officially released, abortion had been legal for 49 years, and while it had been increasingly difficult to access in much of the United States, there is a vast difference between “inaccessible” and “illegal.” In states that have banned abortion, doctors (and hospital lawyers) calculate the odds of criminal prosecution and even incarceration as they make decisions about care for pregnant women with health conditions, often critical ones, that are incompatible with continuing a pregnancy. In states like Texas, where support for a person seeking an abortion has been criminalized, abortion funds have scrambled to figure out whether they can still operate and, in many cases, have had to close their doors and/or relocate to a different state.


Abortion pill mifepristone: An explainer and research roundup about its history, safety and future

Amid pending court cases and ballot initiatives, journalistic coverage of medication abortion has never been more crucial. This piece aims to help inform the narrative with scientific evidence.

by Naseem S. Miller
November 1, 2023

Access to mifepristone, a medication that’s used for the safe termination of early pregnancy, hangs in the balance while the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to take up a case that could determine the legal future of the abortion medication.

In August, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that mifepristone should not be prescribed past the seventh week of pregnancy, prescribed via telemedicine, or shipped to patients through the mail. In September, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to consider a challenge to that ruling.


USA – Many women can’t access miscarriage drug because it’s also used for abortions

OCTOBER 21, 2023

Since losing her first pregnancy four months ago, 32-year-old Lulu has struggled to return to her body’s old rhythms. Lulu, who asked to be identified by her first name to protect her privacy, bled for six full weeks after her miscarriage and hasn’t had a normal menstrual cycle since.

Such disruptions aren’t uncommon after miscarriage, which affects roughly 1 in 10 known pregnancies. But for Lulu, they’ve also served as a persistent reminder that she couldn’t access the drug mifepristone — her preferred method of care — to help her body pass the miscarriage. Instead, her doctor prescribed a drug called misoprostol, which on its own is less effective.


California Brings First-Time Lawsuit Against Anti-Abortion Movement’s ‘Abortion Pill Reversal’ Scheme

“Those who are struggling with the complex decision to get an abortion deserve support and trustworthy guidance—not lies and misinformation,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta.


California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit on Sept. 21 against a chain of California crisis pregnancy centers and its national parent organization for false advertising of “abortion pill reversal” (APR)—an unproven and possibly dangerous high-dose progesterone intervention the anti-abortion movement claims can “reverse” an underway medication abortion. This is the first lawsuit in the country challenging the CPC industry’s promotion of APR.

AG Bonta’s complaint charges RealOptions Obria, a five-site crisis pregnancy center chain in Northern California, and the Ohio-based Heartbeat International with violating California’s False Advertising Law and Unfair Competition law by falsely advertising “abortion pill reversal” as safe and effective. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to block further dissemination of the misleading claims, in addition to other remedies and penalties available under state law.


USA – Pharmacies begin dispensing abortion pills

A handful of pharmacies are offering the pills 10 months after the Biden administration allowed them to do so.

Oct 6, 2023

A handful of independent pharmacies across the country have quietly begun dispensing the abortion pill mifepristone under new rules created by the Biden administration earlier this year, even as a looming Supreme Court case could reimpose restrictions or ban the drugs entirely.

Thousands of branches of major pharmacy chains are poised to join them — making the drugs more accessible to millions of people nationwide and kicking off a new phase of the legal and political battle over the most popular method of ending a pregnancy.


Doctors in states that ban abortion can still refer patients elsewhere. Why are so few doing that?

By Michelle Oberman, Katie Watson and Lisa Lehmann
July 28, 2023

For now, abortion remains accessible even in states where it’s banned — at least for those who know where to look. It’s still legal in two-thirds of the country, and numerous websites explain how to order medications from international pharmacies to end early pregnancies at home.

But not all patients have equal access to reliable information. Even before Roe v. Wade’s reversal, the most vulnerable U.S. patients — particularly low-income women, women of color and first-generation immigrants — disproportionately lacked accurate knowledge about abortion access. Today almost half of Americans are uncertain about the legality of medication abortion.


Abortion in America: How access and attitudes have changed through the centuries

by: Eliza Siegel, Stacker
Jul 28, 2023

The Postal Service can legally deliver abortion medications in the U.S.—including to states with abortion restrictions or bans—according to a Justice Department decision posted online late Jan. 3. The Postal Service requested that the Justice Department provide guidance on this issue a week after the Supreme Court’s conservative majority voted to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in June 2022. That ruling, which sparked intense debate across the U.S., led to abortion restrictions and bans in many states.

In its decision, the Justice Department ruled that sending, delivering, and receiving abortion drugs by mail is not in violation of the 1873 Comstock Act —which aimed to prevent morally “corrupt” items from being delivered by mail—because there is no way to determine that the intent of the recipient is to commit an unlawful act. There are also no federal restrictions on the drugs in question.


Opinion: Madame Restell, and the history of abortion in America

July 10, 2023

Last year, as we watched the U.S. Supreme Court destroy reproductive freedom for women, more attention was paid to the outcome of the Dobbs abortion case than the Court’s reasoning and justification. Justice Samuel Alito, Dobbs author, relied heavily on history in supporting his opinion.

What happened in earlier American history is contested terrain. I would submit that Justice Alito got his history very wrong. He argued that abortion was not deeply rooted in U.S. history and traditions. Alito wrote, “…an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973.”