Until the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision (1973) overturned laws against abortion, it was illegal in 30 states, and only permissible in special circumstances in 16 others. It remains a hotly contested issue; public opinion overall tends to be roughly evenly divided, with passionate ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ camps. The debate has powerful regional, religious and political overtones. South Dakota briefly enacted a pro-life statute in 2006, repealed by a referendum, and citizens’ pro-life initiatives have reached the voting stage in Colorado, Mississippi and North Dakota. Rates of abortion vary vastly by state, with the highest rates pertaining in the ‘liberal’ Northeast and west coast, the lowest in the Midwest and mountain zone. Overall, rates peaked in 1980, since when there has been a steady decline; rates also vary markedly by socio-economic status and race, with Black and Hispanic women having much higher rates of abortion than white women.
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