Last summer, my father-in-law entered the hospital in Germany. My wife, Lu Mueller-Kaul, desperately wanted to be with him. But she was in this country on a complicated visa that forbids her from returning if she leaves. She stayed as her father suffered, cursing the unfair system.
While the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision of Jan. 22, 1973, is usually considered the start of the abortion debate, the move to relax state abortion laws began with medical and law professionals in the 1960s. Here, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and doctors from Johns Hopkins University and the Harvard Divinity School announce the International Conference on Abortion on Aug. 9, 1967.
Dubbed "the father of the abortion-rights movement" by the media, Bill Baird was instrumental in raising awareness in the late 1960s of the substandard medical conditions common for women obtaining illegal abortions at the time. He's seen here, at an undated news conference in Boston, with women he helped get abortions who are hooded to prevent identification and arrest.
On Jan. 22, 1973, the day of the court's decision, an estimated 5,000 women and men formed a "ring of life" around the Minnesota Capitol building and marched in protest of the ruling that "abortion is completely a private matter to be decided by mother and doctor in the first three months of pregnancy."
As soon as the Supreme Court's decision was announced, politicians at the state and federal levels moved to introduce a constitutional amendment and other legislative efforts to circumvent the ruling. Here, plastic models of human fetuses are displayed in the foreground while Wisconsin state Rep. Lloyd Barbee testifies on abortion bills at the Capitol in Madison, April 24, 1973.
Credit Wally Fong / AP
As time progressed, it became common to see anti-abortion protesters in front of abortion clinics, such as this scene in Torrance, Calif., on Aug. 27, 1985. Dr. Lynn Negus, of the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, holds abortion-rights signs in counter to Debbie Thyfault and her children, who were part of an anti-abortion group.
Credit Stephan Savoia / AP
Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton marches with abortion-rights supporters past the White House, April 6, 1992. Although many positions vary at the state, local and even lower federal levels, Democrats at the national level have made abortion rights part of their party platform since 1976; Republicans began calling for Roe's overturn in their platform that same year.
Credit Tim Sloan / AFP/Getty Images
Each January, anti-abortion protesters mark the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling with the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Attendance often reaches into the thousands, such as during the 25th anniversary march pictured here. The 40th March for Life on Jan. 25, 2013, will be the first without its founder, Nellie Gray, who died in August 2012.
Credit Cameron Craig / AP
Norma McCorvey, the "Jane Roe" of the 1973 decision, embraces the Rev. Robert L. Schenck of the National Clergy Council before she addresses a memorial service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 1996. A year earlier McCorvey shocked abortion-rights advocates by becoming a spokeswoman for the other side of the debate, stating she no longer supported abortion rights.
Credit Charlie Riedel / AP
While protesters on both sides of the debate have by and large acted in peace, the National Abortion Federation documents eight murders of abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada since 1977. The most recent was the May 31, 2009, shooting of Dr. George Tiller while he attended church services in Wichita, Kan.
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The Catholic Church put a priority on keeping abortions illegal, helping support the formation of the original National Right to Life Committee in 1969. But as this abortion-rights campaigner noted in 1973, a majority of Catholics at the time believed the abortion decision should be left to a woman and her doctor.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a Florida man's floating home was a house, not a boat, and that therefore, the city marina where he kept it docked could not seize the structure under federal maritime law. The case could affect thousands of houseboat owners nationwide.