Today in 1998, in Sacramento, California, Theodore J. Kaczynski pleaded guilty to all federal charges, acknowledging his responsibility for a 17-year campaign of package bombings. The primary targets were universities, but he also placed a bomb on an American Airlines flight in 1979 and sent one to the home of the president of United Airlines in 1980. After federal investigators set up the UNABOM Task Force (the name came from the words “university and airline bombing”), the media dubbed the culprit the “Unabomber.”
His bombs killed three people and injured more than 20 others.
The psychiatrist’s verdict helped prosecutors and defense reach a plea bargain, which allowed prosecutors to avoid arguing for the death penalty for a mentally ill defendant.
Kaczynski accepted a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole in return for a plea of guilty to all federal charges; he also gave up the right to appeal any rulings in the case. Though Kaczynski later attempted to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing that it had been involuntary, Judge Burrell denied the request, and a federal appeals court upheld the ruling. Kaczynski was remanded to a maximum-security prison in Colorado, where he is serving his life sentence.
Today in 1973 Supreme Court decriminalized abortion by handing down their decision in the case of Roe v. Wade. Despite opponents’ characterization of the decision, it was not the first time that abortion became a legal procedure in the United States. In fact, for most of the country’s first 100 years, abortion as we know it today was not a criminal offense, it was also not considered immoral.
In the 1700s and early 1800s, the word “abortion” referred only to the termination of a pregnancy after “quickening,” the time when the fetus first began to make noticeable movements. The induced ending of a pregnancy before this point did not even have a name–but not because it was uncommon. Women in the 1700s often took drugs to end their unwanted pregnancies.
In 1827, though, Illinois passed a law that made the use of abortion drugs punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment. Although other states followed the Illinois example, advertising for “Female Monthly Pills,” as they were known, was still common through the middle of the 19th century.
Abortion itself only became a serious criminal offense in the period between 1860 and 1880. And the criminalization of abortion did not result from moral outrage. The roots of the new law came from the newly established physicians’ trade organization, the American Medical Association. Doctors decided that abortion practitioners were unwanted competition and went about eliminating that competition. The Catholic Church, which had long accepted terminating pregnancies before quickening, joined the doctors in condemning the practice.
By the turn of the century, all states had laws against abortion, but for the most part they were rarely enforced and women with money had no problem terminating pregnancies if they wished. It wasn’t until the late 1930s that abortion laws were enforced. Subsequent crackdowns led to a reform movement that succeeded in lifting abortion restrictions in California and New York even before the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.
The fight over whether to criminalize abortion has grown increasingly fierce in recent years, but opinion polls suggest that most Americans prefer that women be able to have abortions in the early stages of pregnancy, free of any government interference.
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, 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.
Today in 1879 soldiers 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.
Dull Knife (sometimes called Morning Star) had long urged peace with the powerful Anglo-Americans invading his homeland in the Powder River country of modern-day Wyoming and Montana. However, the 1864 massacre of more than 200 peaceful Cheyenne Indians by Colorado militiamen at Sand Creek, Colorado, led Dull Knife to question whether the Anglo-Americans could ever be trusted. He reluctantly led his people into a war he suspected they could never win. In 1876, many of Dull Knife’s people fought with Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull at Little Bighorn, though the chief himself apparently did not participate.
In 1877, the military relocated Dull Knife and his followers far away from their Wyoming homeland to the large Indian Territory on the southern plains (in present-day Kansas and Oklahoma). No longer able to practice their traditional hunts, the band was largely dependent on meager government provisions.
Beset by hunger, homesickness, and disease, Dull Knife and his people rebelled after one year. In September 1878, they joined another band to make an epic march back to their Wyoming homeland. Although Dull Knife publicly announced his peaceful intentions, the government regarded the fleeing Indians as renegades, and soldiers from bases scattered throughout the Plains attacked the Indians in an unsuccessful effort to turn them back.
Dull Knife led about 100 of his people in one final desperate break for freedom. Soldiers from Fort Robinson chased after the already weak and starving band of men, women, and children, and on January 22, they attacked and killed at least 30 people, including several in the immediate family of Dull Knife.
Badly bloodied, most of the survivors returned to Fort Robinson and accepted their fate. Dull Knife managed to escape, and he eventually found shelter with Chief Red Cloud on the Sioux reservation in Nebraska. Permitted to remain on the reservation, Dull Knife died four years later. The same year, the government finally allowed the Northern Cheyenne to move to a permanent reservation on the Tongue River in Montana near their traditional homeland.
Rest in peace Lyndon Baines Johnson, House congressman, senator, vice president and 37th president, who died today in 1973 at Johnson City, Texas at age 64. (Another source says Stonewall, Texas, at his ranch.) . LBJ was born August 27, 1908 at Stonewall, Texas.
Johnson’s record included successful social and economic reforms such as the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, improvements in housing and urban development and strong support for America’s space program, but these seemed to be forgotten as public criticism of the Vietnam War dogged L.B.J. into retirement .
Lyndon Johnson is buried at Stonewall, Texas.