NRL News

What’s airing on Pro-Life Perspective Today? “Abortion in America Part 1: 1959-1973”

by | Jul 16, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

NRLC President Carol Tobias

One of the many goals of the National Right to Life Academy is to teach young, upcoming pro-life leaders the history of the abortion issue and the rise of our Movement in response to abortion “reform” movements of the 1960s and eventually the Supreme Court’s devastating 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Over the next two weeks, National Right to Life President and Pro-Life Perspective Host Carol Tobias will provide an extremely helpful overview, going back as far as 1959. Why 1959? That was the year, Mrs. Tobias tells us,

“when the American Law Institute or ALI proposed a model penal code for state abortion laws. The code advocated legalizing abortion for reasons that included the mental or physical health of the mother, pregnancy that was due to rape and incest, and fetal deformity.  Pro-abortion forces went to work attempting to pass ALI-model laws in a number of states.”

What Mrs. Tobias does today at to track the development of pro-life organizations that formed to oppose laws based on this model.  She explains, for example,

“In 1967, a group of concerned citizens formed a Steering Committee in Virginia to defeat pro-abortion efforts in the state.  Calling themselves the Virginia Society for Human Life, the first state pro-life organization succeeded in defeating the ALI-model law. That same year, however, Colorado Governor John Love signed the model law making Colorado the first state to allow abortion in cases of permanent mental or physical disability of either the child or mother or in cases of rape or incest. Similar laws were then passed in California, Oregon, and North Carolina.”

Other state organizations began forming, in New York, Minnesota, and elsewhere to keep pro-life laws on the books.  But it quickly became obvious that there was a need for an umbrella organization. And in 1968, the National Right to Life Committee was formed to bring state right-to-life leaders together and coordinate information and strategy sharing among the state organizations. NRLC published a monthly newsletter and sent regular mailings with updates to state and local pro-life leaders.

The remainder of today’s PLP traces the unfortunate arc of increasingly radical laws, beginning in 1970, when New York allowed abortion on demand up to the 24th week of pregnancy.  The pattern continued: similar laws were soon passed in other states, more state organizations began forming in response, and as a result National Right to Life’s network increased.

On the eve of Roe v. Wade, a total of 13 states had adopted ALI-type laws. Mrs. Tobias notes

“Four states allowed abortion on demand. Mississippi allowed abortion for rape and incest while Alabama allowed abortion for the mother’s physical health.  However, 31 states allowed abortion only to save the mother’s life. That same year, New York repealed its 1970 abortion law but Governor Nelson Rockefeller vetoed the repeal.”

So, it is important to remember that as January 22, 1973—the day when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its infamous ruling in Roe versus Wade, finding that a “right of privacy” it had earlier discovered was “broad enough to encompass” a right to abortion–31 states still allowed abortion only to save the mothers’ life. 

On Tuesday Mrs. Tobias picks up the discussion by explaining just how radical Roe v. Wade actually was.

You can hear today’s broadcast and any you might miss in this 10-part series at

Your feedback is very important to improving National Right to Life News Today. Please send your comments to If you like, join those who are following me on Twitter at

Categories: Abortion