What is meant by the term 'Abortion'

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What is meant by the term ‘Abortion’?

The term abortion means the premature expulsion of the foetus from the womb. This may happen through an operation or by accident. Abortion has been available since the ancient Greeks and Romans.

        The 1803, Ellenborough Act made abortion after the 16-20 week period illegal, the offence carried a death penalty though it was later changed to life imprisonment. Due to this act many women chose to have illegal abortions, known as back street abortions, 50 women died a year due to botched surgery or infection. The 1967 Act was introduced by David Steel and ended illegal terminations. Abortion was allowed if two doctors agreed that it was safer to abort than continue with the pregnancy due to the women’s mental or physical health or if there was a risk of the child having serious physical or mental problems. Abortions could take place at 28 weeks gestation or below. In 1969, over 54,819 registered abortions had been preformed.  After 1967 medical technology had improved rapidly and neonatal units were able to save babies born at 24 weeks, by the 1990’s 25% of them could be saved. The abortion acts came upon much scrutiny in 1990, many people were against it. In 1991 the limit of abortion was reduced from 28 weeks to 24 weeks.         

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The abortion rates have been rising rapidly since the 1990’s. In 2003 there were 181,600 legal abortions in England and Wales.

There are two main ways of aborting a foetus, surgically and medically. The most common surgical method of abortion is by vacuum aspiration. This counts for 90% of abortions up to 12 weeks gestation and half of abortion at 13 to 19 weeks gestation. To abort a foetus medically the foetus is injected with drugs and the mother is then induced into labour 24 hours later, she then gives birth to a dead foetus.

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