Before 1973, abortions in the United States were illegal. Women seeking abortions, more often than not, worked through an underground network of doctors who were willing to take risks of being arrested and jailed. Many abortions were performed by people who were not doctors.
These procedures often took place under dangerous circumstances, frequently resulting in permanent reproductive damage or death. There were many women who could not afford or have access to these "underground" doctors. They would self-induce abortions with coat hangers and other means, or give birth to an unwanted child.
In 1973, the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade ruled that women could legally access safe abortions. This meant women could at last make their own health decisions with their doctors. Soon after this Supreme Court ruling, the mortality rate from abortions dropped dramatically.
Since 1973, however, access to abortions has been under attack. In the years following this decision, more than a thousand state laws have been enacted making it harder, if not impossible, to get an abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute's research, in 2017, 58% of American women of reproductive age lived in a state considered either hostile or extremely hostile to abortion rights. States continue their assaults on abortion.