Year
1973

Supreme Court legalizes abortion

In a historic decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in Roe v. Wade that women, as part of their constitutional right to privacy, can terminate a pregnancy during its first two trimesters. Only during the last trimester, when the fetus can survive outside the womb, would states be permitted to regulate abortion of a healthy pregnancy.

The controversial ruling, essentially reversing a century of anti-abortion legislation in the United States, was the result of a call by many American women for control over their own reproductive processes. Although defended by the Supreme Court on several occasions, the legalization of abortion became a divisive and intensely emotional public issue. The debate intensified during the 1980s, and both pro-choice and pro-life organizations strengthened their membership and political influence.

Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush used their executive authority to legislate abortion clinic guidelines that restricted free practice of the procedure. However, in 1986, and again in 1989 and 1992, the Supreme Court narrowly reaffirmed the decision, and in 1993 President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, overturned his predecessors’ anti-abortion legislation within days of taking office. In the 1990s, opponents of abortion rights increasingly turned to violent methods in their campaign to make abortion illegal again.

In 2005, the retirement of Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who though conservative had helped block efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, led to fears that the historic legislation might be vulnerable to reversal.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Ted Kaczynski pleads guilty to bombings

On this day in 1998, in a Sacramento, California, courtroom, Theodore J. Kaczynski pleads guilty to all federal charges against him, acknowledging his responsibility for a 17-year campaign of package bombings attributed to the “Unabomber.” Born in 1942, Kaczynski attended Harvard ...read more

First Russian Revolution begins

In Russia, the revolution of 1905 begins when czarist troops open fire on a peaceful group of workers marching to the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to petition their grievances to Czar Nicholas II. Some 500 protestors were massacred on “Bloody Sunday,” setting off months of ...read more

Sakharov arrested in Moscow

In Moscow, Andrei Dmitriyevich Sakharov, the Soviet physicist who helped build the USSR’s first hydrogen bomb, is arrested after criticizing the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan. He was subsequently stripped of his numerous scientific honors and banished to remote ...read more

Queen Victoria dies

The death of Queen Victoria on January 22, 1901, ends an era in which most of her British subjects know no other monarch. Her 63-year reign, the longest in British history, saw the growth of an empire on which the sun never set. Victoria restored dignity to the English monarchy ...read more

British colonists reach New Zealand

Under the leadership of British statesman Edward G. Wakefield, the first British colonists to New Zealand arrive at Port Nicholson on Auckland Island.In 1642, Dutch navigator Abel Tasman became the first European to discover the South Pacific island group that later became known ...read more

Lyndon Baines Johnson dies in Texas

On this day in 1973, former President Lyndon Baines Johnson dies in Johnson City, Texas, at the age of 64. After leaving the White House in 1968, L.B.J. returned to his beloved home state, Texas, with his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, and immersed himself in the activity dearest to ...read more

Chief Dull Knife makes last fight for freedom

On this day, pursuing American soldiers badly beat Cheyenne Chief Dull Knife and his people as they make a desperate bid for freedom. In doing so, the soldiers effectively crushed the so-called Dull Knife Outbreak.A leading chief of the Northern Cheyenne, Dull Knife (sometimes ...read more

George Gordon, Lord Byron, is born

Romantic poet George Gordon, Lord Byron, is born this day in Aberdeen, Scotland. Despite his later fortune and title, Byron grew up in poverty and was burdened by a clubfoot. At age 10, he inherited his great uncle’s title and became Lord Byron. He attended Harrow, then Trinity ...read more

Plane crashes at Nigerian airport

On this day in 1973, a plane returning Muslim pilgrims from Mecca crashes in Kano, Nigeria, killing 176 people. It was the deadliest air disaster of its time.The Royal Jordanian Boeing 707-300 was chartered by Nigeria Airways to take Muslims in Nigeria on a pilgrimage to Mecca in ...read more

Roe v. Wade

Roe v. Wade was a landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s legal right to an abortion. The Court ruled, in a 7-2 decision, that a woman’s right to choose an abortion was protected by the privacy rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. ...read more

John McCausland dies

On this day in 1927, Confederate General John A. McCausland dies at age 90 inWest Virginia. He lived for over 50 years after the war and remained an unreconstructed Rebel at the time of his death.Nicknamed “Tiger John,” McCausland was born to Irish immigrants in 1836 in St. ...read more