On his second full day as leader of the United States, GeorgeW. Bush took swift action to restrict U.S. funds to worldwide family planning groups engaged in abortion. He vowed to protect “every person at every stage and season of life,” reversing the Clinton administration's policy of providing unrestricted family planning aid. On the same day, Bush also gave the following written statement to marchers observing the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that legalized abortion:
The pledges of our affirmation of self-reliance are not just for the strong, the unaligned or the healthy. They are for everyone, including unborn children. We share a large goal, to work toward a day when every child is met in life and defended in regulation … to build a heritage of life, affirming that every individual at every stage and time of the year of life, is created identical in God's image.
The post-Roe v. Wade era
The legalization of abortion triggered a number of questions: Should any restrictions on abortion be decided by legislators or by judges? Can states require a minor to obtain parental consent before an abortion? Can states require that a woman take a 24-hour “cooling-off” period before having an abortion? Can the government direct physicians to warn women of the risks and consequences of abortion? Must women having abortions in their second trimester of pregnancy be required to undergo the procedure in a hospital (Gest 1982)?
The debate surrounding abortion spawned powerful social movements over the final quarter of the 20th century. Hundreds of thousands of abortion supporters and opponents marched in many demonstrations. In 1992, for instance, an estimated one-half million individuals marched from the White House to the Capitol Mall in demonstration of their support for abortion rights and against a restrictive Pennsylvania law requiring, among other things, that any woman seeking an abortion observe a 24-hour waiting period and that a married woman seeking an abortion inform her husband of her intent. National organizations emerged and cultivated grassroots connections throughout the country. Fueled in dialectical opposition were such key players as Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation (a consortium of abortion providers) on one side and the National Right to Life Committee (which claimed at century's end to have 3.5 million supporters, 400,000 donors, and 3,000 chapters) on the other (“Pro-Life Resources” 2000).
Ironically, a century after physicians gave anti-abortion laws their support, medical groups were opposing laws intended to curb abortion. In 1982, the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Nurses Association of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics urged the U.S. Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional an Akron, Ohio, city ordinance that required hospital abortions for women past their third month of pregnancy, forbade abortions for those under the age of 15 without parental consent, and required physicians to read to their patients an account of the pro-cedure's dangers. These organizations argued that such measures “interfere significantly with a woman's ...