1956 January 19

Estimates 750,000 Illegal Abortions a Year in U.S.


At a Planned Parenthood luncheon on this day, Mrs. Eugene Meyer estimated that 750,000 illegal abortions are performed every year in the U.S. She called for an end to hypocrisy about birth control, arguing that greater access to contraceptives would reduce the number of abortions. Meyer was the wife of Eugene Meyer, Chair of the Board of the Washington Post.

Mrs. Meyer refused to blame the Catholic Church for existing restrictions on access to birth control, arguing that if non-Catholics were “honest and forthright” about advancing their ideas the influence of the Catholic Church would be greatly reduced.

State criminal abortion laws were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on January 22, 1973 in Roe v. Wade.

Read: David Garrow, Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade (1998)

Read a biography of Sanger: Ellen Chesler, Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America (1992)

Learn more: Linda Gordon, The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America, 3rd ed. (2007)



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