Until the 19th century, abortion law was nonexistent and abortion was not seen as a moral issue. However, by the turn of the 20th century, abortion was legally defined and controlled in most states. The landmark Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade (1973), marked the legalization of abortion but did not end the controversy that existed. Legislation at both the federal and state levels has added restrictions on abortion, making it difficult for women to exercise their reproductive rights. Social work's commitment to promote the human rights of women compels social workers to be aware of and involved in this issue.
D. Lynn Jackson
Ruth A. Brandwein
This overview entry introduces the topic of women, beginning with general demographic information. The section on poverty and inequality, which follows, describes the gender differences and delineates some reasons why women are poor and unequal. Issues of childcare, welfare, and education are explored. Domestic violence and sexual assault are discussed, followed by a discussion of health and mental health issues affecting women. The role of women in politics is briefly explored. The entry concludes with a discussion of current trends and challenges, including implications for social justice.