1967 June 15

Governor Reagan Signs Liberal California Abortion Law


Gov. Ronald Reagan on this day signed the California Therapeutic Abortion Law, which at the time was one of the early liberalized state abortion laws. He signed it as part of a promise to some GOP legislators, not expecting the legislature would actually pass it. He quickly regretted signing the law, however, when he learned how many abortions were being performed, and he did not support an attempt to liberalize it even further. So, it is not true that Reagan was really “pro-choice” while governor, as some people believe.

As president, Reagan gave strong verbal support to the anti-abortion right-to-life movement. See, for example, his January 30, 1984, speech to the religious broadcasters, in which he claimed he was proud of attacks on him by the ACLU because of his anti-abortion stand. In practice, however, he never gave any real support to a constitutional amendment to prohibit abortion, as the right-to-life movement demanded, and no such amendment was ever passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.

Read about Reagan as governor: Lou Cannon, Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power (2009)

See a timeline of abortion rights in California: http://ppactionca.org/issues/abortion.html

Read: N. E. H. Hull and Peter Charles Hoffer, The Abortion Rights Controversy in American History (2010)

Read about abortion in America before Roe: Linda Greenhouse and Riva Siegel, Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling (2010)

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