Though California is recognized for protecting women’s right to choose today, this was not always the case. Abortion was illegal in California, as it was in all other states in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; over time, however, California witnessed a series of legal amendments and cases that pressed on its nineteenth-century statute—culminating in the decriminalization of abortion years before Roe v. Wade. This article begins with the history of California abortion legislation, then analyzes recent laws passed elsewhere in the United States, showing how these new laws simply repeat laws previously passed and discarded in California. This overview should prove helpful to citizens and legislators who wish their states to follow suit and protect choice.
Abortion and the Law in California: Lessons for Today
ALICIA GUTIERREZ-ROMINE is an assistant professor of history at La Sierra University. Her book, From Back Alley to the Border: Criminal Abortion in California, 1920–1969 (2020), explores the history of criminal abortion and abortion legislation in California before Roe v. Wade. In addition to From Back Alley to the Border, Gutierrez-Romine’s work was published in Beyond the Border of the Law: Critical Legal Histories of the North American West (2018). She has previously received the American Historical Association’s Littleton-Griswold Grant and has been featured on C-SPAN and the Science Channel. Her current project explores the life and activism of Dr. Edna Griffin, the first black woman physician in Pasadena, California.
Alicia Gutierrez-Romine; Abortion and the Law in California: Lessons for Today. California History 1 February 2022; 99 (1): 10–29. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ch.2022.99.1.10
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