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State Laws History

In doing research on the history of abortion in the United States I tried to determine when abortion was made illegal in each state. This is not as simple of a question as it might appear. Typically, a state would pass a law making certain abortions illegal and then tighten the law as time went on, so it is difficult to pin down one specific year as the year that abortion was made legal in that state. Below, however, is a list of the information I was able to pull out of three references, in the order they were written:

Information from the three sources may not be in total agreement, and, to some extent, the description of each law is my own interpretation of what I read, so the reader of this page may have reference to these three sources to verify any information or sort out seeming inconsistencies.

As a summary, Olasky provides the following paragraph on page 102:
"Let's summarize the overall record. During the 1840s and 1850s alone, at least thirteen states passed laws forbidding abortion at any stage of pregnancy. Three others passed laws making abortion illegal only after quickening. By the end of 1868 thirty states had overcome all the legislative and cultural obstacles to passing an anti-abortion law, and twenty-seven of them punished attempts to induce abortion before quickening. Twenty of the states had bitten the bullet and were punishing abortion at all stages equally, regardless of the added evidence given by quickening; others had an increased range of punishment.... To show the enormity of abortion, some states provided the same penalty for the death of the mother during an abortion operation and the death of the unborn child. To show that the unborn child was considered to be human life, some states defined abortion as 'manslaughter'".
State Year Source Page Law
Alabama 1841 Mohr 40 abortion = crime for "any pregnant woman" ("?pregnant meant quickened"?)
Alabama 1866 Mohr 205 tightening of laws
Alabama 1867 Mohr 205 tightening of laws
Alabama 1894 Mohr 229 stiffened penalty
Alabama 1841 Quay 445 first abortion law
Arizona Territory 1864 Mohr 202 abortion on woman "being with child" = crime
Arizona Territory 1887 Mohr 229 woman guilty
Arkansas 1837 Mohr 40 after quickening = manslaughter
Arkansas 1875 Mohr 223 attemted abortion before quickening = crime; abortifacient info = illegal
Arkansas 1838 Quay 436 abortion of quick child = manslaughter (exeption mother's life; physician referal)
Arkansas 1838 Quay 445 first abortion law
California 1849 Mohr 132 abortion if woman "demonstrable pregnant" = crime
California 1872 Mohr 221 woman need not be shown to be pregnant; woman guilty
Colorado 1891 Mohr 229 abortion-related death = murder
Colorado Territory 1861 Mohr 202 abortion on woman "being with child" = crime
Colorado Territory 1867 Mohr 202 added therapeutic abortion exception
Connecticut 1821 Mohr 21 medical abortion if "quick with child" = crime
Connecticut 1830 Mohr 25 surgical abortion of quick child = crime
Connecticut 1821 Olasky 90 chemical abortion after quickening = crime
Connecticut 1821 Quay 435 attempted poisoning after quickening = crime
Connecticut 1830 Quay 435 attempted surgical abortions after quickening = crime
Connecticut 1860 Quay 435 women need not be shown pregnant
Connecticut 1821 Quay 445 first abortion law
Delaware 1883 Mohr 228 comprehensive anti-abortion law
Florida 1868 Mohr 205 attempted abortion = crime
Georgia 1876 Mohr 224 any abortion = "assault with intent to murder"; attempted abortion = misdemeanor
Hawaii (kingdom) 1850 Quay 445 first abortion law
Idaho Territory 1864 Mohr 202 abortion on woman "being with child" = crime
Idaho Territory 1887 Mohr 229 woman guilty
Illinois 1827 Mohr 25 medical abortion illegal (no mention of quickening)
Illinois 1867 Mohr 26 surgical abortion also a crime
Illinois 1867 Mohr 205 raised penalty for abortions
Illinois 1872 Mohr 206 selling abortifacients illegal
Illinois 1827 Quay 435 attempted poisoning = crime
Illinois 1867 Quay 435 attempted surgical abortion = crime; but allowed "bona fide medical purposes"
Illinois 1827 Quay 445 first abortion law
Indiana 1835 Mohr 40 similar to Ohio but no felony?
Indiana 1852 Mohr 141 language tightened to not have to prove pregancy
Indiana 1852 Mohr 141 selling abortifacient medicine = crime
Indiana 1881 Mohr 227 woman guilty; advertising abortifacients illegal
Indiana 1835 Olasky 99 medical abortion = crime
Indiana 1835 Quay 436 attempted abortion = misdemeanor
Indiana 1881 Quay 436 attempted abortion = felony
Indiana 1835 Quay 445 first abortion law
Iowa 1839 Mohr 40 "poison control provision" similar to CT et al
Iowa 1858 Mohr 141 adminstering abortifacient drugs = crime
Iowa 1860 Mohr 201 abortion = felony; first law to make woman guilty
Iowa 1882 Mohr 228 increased prison term
Iowa 1857(?) Olasky 101 any abortion illegal
Iowa 1839 Quay 437 attempted poisoning = crime
Iowa 1843 Quay 437 abortion by any means = manslaughter (exception: life of mother)
Iowa 1839 Quay 445 first abortion law
Kansas 1874 Mohr 220 abortifacient info or ads illegal
Kansas Territory 1854 Mohr 138 any abortion = misdemenor
Louisiana 1856 Mohr 130 abortion and attempted abortion = felony
Louisiana 1870 Mohr 205 surgical (as well as medical) abortions illegal
Maine 1840 Mohr 41 attempted abortion is an offense if woman is "pregnant with child"; regardless of quickening
Maine 1840 Olasky 100 attempted medical abortion = crime
Maine 1841 Quay 437 any abortion illegal
Maine 1840 Quay 445 first abortion law
Maryland 1867 Mohr 212 abortion illegal; advertising abortion/abortifacients illegal
Massachussets 1845 Mohr 122-123 procuring abortion = misdemeanor
Massachussets 1847 Mohr 130 advertising abortifacients = crime
Massachussets 1869 Mohr 219 pregnancy need not be proved
Massachussets 1845 Quay 445 first abortion law
Michigan 1846 Mohr 129 any abortion = crime; after quickening = manslaughter
Michigan 1869 Mohr 219 abortifacient info or ads illegal
Michigan 1873 Mohr 221 advertising abortifacients illegal
Minnesota 1873 Mohr 222 attempted abortion = crime; felony if woman or child died; woman guilty
Minnesota territory 1851 Mohr 138 abortion illegal after quickening
Mississippi 1839 Mohr 40 after quickening = 2nd deg manslaughter
Missouri 1825 Mohr 25 medical abortion illegal (no mention of quickening)
Missouri 1835 Mohr 26 surgical abortion also a crime
Missouri 1835 Quay 436 attempted abortion illegal (exceptions: mother's life; 1 physician referal)
Montana Territory 1864 Mohr 202 abortion on woman "being with child" = crime
Nebraska 1873 Mohr 223 attempted abortion at any stage illegal
Nevada 1869 Mohr 219 advertising abortifacients = illegal
Nevada Territory 1861 Mohr 202 abortion on woman "being with child" = crime
New Hampshire 1849 Mohr 133 attempted abortion = crime; abortion after quickening = greater sentence
New Hampshire 1848 Quay 445 first abortion law
New Jersey 1849 Mohr 136 all abortions criminal (like many of these; woman "retained immunities")
New Jersey 1872 Mohr 222 feticide = crime (previously crime was only against woman)
New Jersey 1898 Mohr 229 redirected emphasis toward woman's survival rather than gestation
New York 1828/30 Mohr 25 abortion of quick child = 2nd deg manslaughter
New York 1845 Mohr 123-124 aborting quick fetus = 2nd degree manslaughter
New York 1869 Mohr 217 abortion at any gestation = 2nd deg. Murder; attempted abortion = misdemeanor
New York 1872 Mohr 218 abortion-related death of fetus or woman = felony; woman guilty of felony
New York 1881 Mohr 227 minor changes
New York 1846 Olasky 96 surgical (as well as medical) abortions illegal
New York 1869(?) Olasky 97 eliminated quickening distinction
New York 1872(?) Olasky 98 abortion = felony
New York 1872 Olasky 158 easier to prosecute; harsher penalties
New York 1828 Quay 436 attempted abortion after quickening = 2nd deg manslaughter; before quickening = misdemeanor; exception for life of mother or two physicians recommenda
New York 1845 Quay 436 dropped allowance for 2 physicians recommendation
New York 1828 Quay 445 first abortion law
North Carolina 1881 Mohr 227 abortion after quickening = felony; before quickening = misdemeanor
Ohio 1834 Mohr 39 attempted abortion = misdemeanor; death of quick fetus = felony
Ohio 1867 Mohr 209 selling abortifacients illegal
Ohio 1834 Quay 436 attempted abortion = misdemeanor (exception for mother's life or 2 physicians); after quickening = high misdemeanor
Ohio 1834 Quay 445 first abortion law
Oregon Territory 1854 Mohr 138 abortion illegal after quickening
Oregon Territory 1864 Mohr 203 removed "quick" from law; destruction of any "child" in utero = manslaughter
Pennsylvania 1861 Mohr 201 attempted abortion = crime
Pennsylvania 1870 Mohr 220 abortifacient info or ads illegal
Pennsylvania 1897 Mohr 229 "Comstock" law
Rhode Island 1896 Mohr 229 anti-abortion law
South Carolina 1883 Mohr 228 comprehensive anti-abortion law
Tennessee 1883 Mohr 228 comprehensive anti-abortion law
Texas 1854 Mohr 139 abortion after quickening = crime
Texas 1856 Mohr 139 minor changes
Texas 1858 Mohr 139 attempted abortion = crime (after quickening)
Vermont 1846 Mohr 129 abortion = felony if woman dies
Vermont 1846 Mohr 201 attempted abortion illegal
Vermont 1847 Mohr 201 attempted abortion illegal; even if woman not pregnant
Vermont 1846 Quay 445 first abortion law
Virginia 1848 Mohr 132 death of any fetus = crime; post-quickened = greater sentence
Virginia 1873 Mohr 222 removed quickening from law
Virginia 1848 Quay 445 first abortion law
Washington Territory 1854 Mohr 138 any abortion = crime
Wisconsin 1849 Mohr 132 abortion of quick child = crime
Wisconsin 1858 Olasky 102 any medical abortion = 2nd deg manslauter
Wyoming Territory 1869 Mohr 219 "striaightforward" anti-abortion law


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