Then, the politician and "morality" advocate Anthony Comstock began his crusade against birth control, sex workers and eventually abortion. In 1873, the "Comstock Law" outlawed contraception and abortion with limited exceptions for health. With the passage of this law, women lost what had been their common law right.
"Anthony Comstock was the main anti-choice person who, in the late 1800s, starting burning books and made it illegal for anything to be sent through the mail having to do with sexuality," Ault said. "He later jailed Margaret Sanger [for defying the contraception prohibition] and was on her case until he died."
By the late 1920s, some 15,000 women a year died from abortions because safe, legal procedures were nearly impossible for most to obtain. According to 4000 Years for Choice, dangerous self-induction methods included using knitting needles, crochet hooks, hairpins, scissors and buttonhooks. With the death toll rising, physicians in the 1930s began providing abortion care through underground clinics and in subsequent decades individuals and doctors banded together to work around and protest the prohibition.