From Back Alley Procedures to State Bans: A Deep Dive Into the Past and Present Struggles of Women’s Reproductive Health


By: Akansha Deshmukh

A woman’s body is her own, and she should have the right to make decisions about it without interference or coercion from others. This fundamental principle is at the heart of women’s rights movements across the globe.

For centuries, women have been denied control over their own bodies. Men have dictated what women can and cannot do with their bodies, from requiring them to cover themselves completely to denying them access to contraception and abortion. Women have been treated as second-class citizens, with little say over their own lives and destinies.

The history of women’s reproductive rights is a long and arduous one, marked by struggle and resistance against patriarchal systems that have sought to control women’s bodies and sexual autonomy for centuries. It is a history filled with stories of women who have fought against immense odds to secure their right to access reproductive healthcare, including birth control, abortion, and maternal healthcare. This fight for women’s bodily autonomy is not just about reproductive rights, however. It is also about a woman’s right to be free from sexual harassment and assault, to have access to healthcare that meets her specific needs, and to be treated with dignity and respect.

In the early 19th century, women’s reproductive rights were virtually non-existent. Women had little control over their bodies and were often subjected to unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and inadequate maternal healthcare. It was not until the feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s that women began to demand reproductive autonomy and equal rights in matters of reproduction.

The landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade in 1973 was a significant victory for reproductive rights advocates. The case affirmed a woman’s right to choose abortion without excessive government interference, based on the right to privacy protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision was a turning point for women’s reproductive rights in the United States, and it paved the way for increased access to safe and legal abortion services.

Recent Changes in Women’s Reproductive Rights

However, the fight for reproductive rights did not end with Roe v. Wade. Conservative politicians and some religious groups have waged a relentless campaign to roll back women’s reproductive rights, including attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, enact strict anti-abortion laws, and limit access to birth control. These efforts have been met with fierce resistance from women’s rights advocates, who have organized rallies, marches, and protests to protect women’s reproductive freedoms.

One of the most significant challenges to reproductive rights in recent years has been the rise of so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs), which are often funded by conservative groups and religious organizations. These centers often masquerade as legitimate healthcare providers, offering free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, but in reality, they provide false information and propaganda designed to dissuade women from seeking abortions. Many of these centers also offer no medical services and have been criticized for preying on vulnerable women in crisis situations.

With these challenges, women’s reproductive rights still continue to advance in recent years. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed, which required insurance companies to cover contraception and other reproductive healthcare services. This provision expanded access to birth control for millions of women and helped ensure that reproductive healthcare was no longer a luxury reserved only for the wealthy.

More recently, the #MeToo movement has shone a spotlight on sexual assault and harassment, highlighting the need for comprehensive sex education and consent-based sexual practices. The movement has also exposed the ways in which women’s reproductive autonomy has been undermined by sexual violence and coercion.

As the struggle for women’s reproductive rights is ongoing, it is a fight that women cannot afford to lose. Women’s bodies are often made as bait for political battlegrounds or objects to be controlled and manipulated. Women deserve the right to make their own decisions about their bodies, their healthcare, and their futures. 

Maternal Deaths to Rise by 24% in US with Nationwide Abortion Ban, Disproportionately Affecting Black Women by 39%, Study Finds

A recent report has estimated that maternal mortality rates in the United States are at a staggering 23.8 deaths per 100,000 births, with 0.41 abortion-related deaths per 100,000 abortions. The study, conducted by Hoyert in 2022 and Kortsmit in 2021, highlights the dangers that women face when they are forced to carry a pregnancy to term. With the recent reversal of Roe v. Wade and the looming threat of widespread abortion bans, these rates are expected to increase even further.

This is a particularly concerning issue, as the risks of remaining pregnant in the United States are much higher compared to peer countries. In 2017, the U.S. maternal mortality rate was 19%, while Italy’s was 2%, Australia’s was 6%, and Canada’s was 10%, according to the World Health Organization in 2019. The Guttmacher Institute anticipates that 26 states will ban abortion in the wake of the recent United States Supreme Court ruling Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This ruling effectively overturns both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and denies constitutional right to abortion.

Forcing everyone who is currently able to get an abortion to stay pregnant in the U.S. could have devastating consequences. The report estimates that ending abortion in the United States would result in a 24% increase in maternal deaths overall, with a disproportionate increase of 39% among non-Hispanic Black people. The increase in maternal deaths due to the increased risk of staying pregnant varies dramatically depending on the size of the state, its maternal mortality rate, and its pre-ban abortion rate, ranging from increases upto 29%.

Although Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will not immediately lead to a federal abortion ban, opponents of abortion have stated that it is their aim. The state-level estimates for the Dobbs-ban states provide a more directly applicable description of how maternal mortality may increase in places where abortion is most likely to be banned in the short term. The impact of these bans on women’s lives cannot be underestimated, and it is crucial that lawmakers take action to ensure that women’s health and safety is not compromised.

Abortion Bans: The Latest Tactic in the War Against Women’s Reproductive Freedom

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman, possessing agency over her own body, should have the right to make decisions regarding her reproductive health. And yet, even in this modern age, the fight for abortion rights rages on.

As a woman, one can feel a deep sense of outrage at the constant attempts to restrict a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion. It is a fundamental right, a matter of bodily autonomy, and one that should be fiercely protected.

To deny a woman the right to choose what happens to her own body is to strip her of her agency, her power, and her dignity. It is to reduce her to nothing more than a vessel for someone else’s desires and needs. It is to deny her the basic human right to self-determination.

Those who seek to restrict abortion rights often do so under the guise of protecting the sanctity of life. But what of the sanctity of the lives of the women who are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term? What of their physical and mental health, their economic stability, their ability to care for the children they already have?

The fight for abortion rights is not simply a matter of reproductive health, but of gender equality. It is a fight to ensure that women are treated as full and equal members of society, with the same rights and freedoms as men.

A staggering 13 states have banned most abortions, with strict laws being implemented to restrict the procedure after the recent decision by the Supreme Court to overturn the landmark case of Roe v. Wade. However, this tussle over abortion access is not confined to just these states. Further, the battleground has shifted to the courtrooms, with advocates filing lawsuits to block the enforcement of such laws. As of the present, approximately half of the states have shown intent to implement laws banning abortion or gestational limitations on the procedure. 

Despite this, certain states continue to permit abortion while legal proceedings determine the feasibility of these bans. It should be noted that abortion remains legal in the remaining states, and a number of them have even strengthened protections in light of the Dobbs decision.

Myths About Abortion

Arguments against abortion that are based on misinformation have become increasingly common, and it is important to address these claims with accurate information. The reality is that many of these arguments are not supported by the facts and can be harmful to those seeking reproductive healthcare.

One of the most common arguments against abortion is that it is dangerous and can lead to serious health complications. However, this assertion is not supported by the data. In fact, abortion is a safe medical procedure with a low risk of complications. Serious complications are rare, and when they do occur, they are usually easily treated.

Another argument against abortion is that it is always morally wrong. However, this argument ignores the fact that women have the right to make their own choices about their bodies and their lives. It also overlooks the reality that many women choose to have abortions for medical, financial, or personal reasons. 

Another claim made against abortion is that it is used as a form of birth control. This assertion is misleading and untrue. The majority of women who choose to have abortions do so because of unplanned pregnancies or because of medical issues that make continuing the pregnancy dangerous to their health. 

Some argue that abortion is equivalent to murder or infanticide. However, this claim is not supported by the facts. Abortion is a legal medical procedure that is performed early in pregnancy, before the fetus is viable outside the womb. It is not equivalent to murder or infanticide. 

Finally, some argue that abortion is linked to negative health outcomes, such as an increased risk of breast cancer or mental health issues. However, these claims are not supported by scientific evidence. In fact, studies have shown that there is no link between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer or mental health issues. 

More than ever, it has become crucial to challenge arguments against abortion that are based on misinformation. Spreading accurate information and engaging in respectful dialogue can create a society that values the autonomy and well-being of all individuals, including those seeking reproductive healthcare. 

Status of Abortion According to States

StatesStatus of Abortion
AlabamaBanned with no exceptions for rape or incest.
ArkansasBanned with no exceptions for rape or incest.
KentuckyBanned with no exceptions for rape or incest.
LouisianaBanned with no exceptions for rape or incest.
MississippiBanned with no exceptions for rape or incest.
MissouriBanned with no exceptions for rape or incest.
OklahomaBanned with no exceptions for rape or incest.
South DakotaBanned with no exceptions for rape or incest.
TennesseeBanned with no exceptions for rape or incest.
TexasBanned with no exceptions for rape or incest.
West Virginia Banned with exceptions for rape and incest.
Wisconsin Banned with no exceptions for rape or incest.
Georgia Gestational limit- 6 weeks, Banned after six weeks of pregnancy.
Arizona Gestational limit- 15 weeks, Banned after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Florida Gestational limit- 15 weeks, Banned after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
UtahGestational limit- 18 weeks,  Banned after 18 weeks of pregnancy.
North CarolinaGestational limit- 20 weeks,  Banned after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Indiana Ban blocked,  22 weeks. 
IowaBan blocked,  22 weeks. 
North Dakota Ban blocked,  22 weeks. 
Montana Ban blocked,  Viability.
OhioBan blocked,  22 weeks. 
WyomingBan blocked,  Viability.
AlaskaLegal, No gestational limit
KansasLegal,  22 weeks. 
NebraskaLegal,  22 weeks.
New HampshireLegal,  24 weeks.
South CarolinaLegal,  22 weeks.
VirginiaLegal,  Viability.
Washington, D.C.Legal, No gestational limit
California Legal with new protections, Viability
ColoradoLegal with new protections, No gestational limit
ConnecticutLegal with new protections, Viability
DelawareLegal with new protections
HawaiiLegal with new protections
IllinoisLegal with new protections
MaineLegal with new protections
MarylandLegal with new protections
MassachusettsLegal with new protections, 22 weeks
MichiganLegal with new protections
MinnesotaLegal with new protections
NevadaLegal with new protections, 22 weeks
New JerseyLegal with new protections, No gestational limit
New MexicoLegal with new protections, No gestational limit
New York Legal with new protections, Viability 
OregonLegal with new protections, No gestational limit
PennsylvaniaLegal with new protections, 24 weeks
Rhode IslandLegal with new protections, Viability
VermontLegal with new protections, No gestational limit
Washington Legal with new protections, Viability


Note: Weeks of pregnancy are counted since the last menstrual period.

Source of the abortion status:


Akansha Deshmukh is an independent investigative journalist covering women centric issues, gender-based violence, and domestic abuse, as well as serious crimes, political corruption, cyberspace and terrorism. 

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