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Abortion Facts

Abortion Facts

Abortion means the termination of a pregnancy, wherein the fetus is removed from the womb. Approximately 42 million women obtain abortion every year. To know more facts and statistics regarding abortion, read this article...
Ningthoujam Sandhyarani
Abortion is defined as the removal of a developing fetus (or embryo) from the mother's uterus, with an objective to terminate a pregnancy. This can occur spontaneously, which is referred to as a miscarriage (when expulsion of an embryo occurs spontaneously within the first 22 weeks of conception, it is known as miscarriage.), or induced artificially, either via surgical means, through the use of chemicals, or by any other means.

The modern laws of abortion in the West go back to the common law of England, wherein abortion was allowed before the fetus showed any signs of life, known as 'quickening'. Nowadays, each country has its own abortion laws, according to the cultural, moral, religious and legal mores prevailing in them. Today, various aspects of abortion are being debated, particularly the legal, ethical, biological, philosophical and moral ones. Troubling matters like if the fetus has any rights, the rights of a woman over her own body and whether that overrides that of the unborn fetus, the methods used for aborting a fetus, whether the fetus feels pain during the process and so on, are some of the issues that are argued over.

Abortion can be therapeutic or elective depending on the purpose behind aborting a fetus. The former is procured due to ill health of the pregnant woman, while abortion for any other reason is called elective. Usually, it is carried out within the first few months of pregnancy. At present, advancements in gynecology have made it possible to abort a fetus even at 25-26 weeks of conception; while the usual pregnancy term is 40 weeks. Discussed below are some abortion facts and statistics that you may like to know.

Facts About Abortion

The debates about abortion are usually spearheaded by two groups: the pro life group and the pro choice group. Given below are some general facts about abortion as well as some that highlight these emotive factors.

The pro life group is of the opinion that human life begins at conception and that killing a fetus is akin to murdering a human being. They support this argument on the basis that by the time induced abortions are usually performed, the fetus already develops recognizable organs as well as organic functions like the brain, heart, circulation, tiny limbs and so on. Many members of the pro life group are particularly horrified at the aspects of the methods used to abort the fetus, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy. This group is also made up of a large portion of religiously inclined people, who think that the fertilized egg has a soul and hence is a complete human being. The pro life group advocates greater restrictions by law against abortion, some of them even advocating a complete ban of abortion.

The pro choice group, on the other hand, advocates against any restrictions on abortion by law. They are of the opinion that the fetus is, especially at conception, nothing more than a protozoan, with a nucleus that has the genetic code of a human being. And while indeed this protozoan does develop into a human being, but the line between it being a mass of tissue and a human being is vague. A large portion of this group is made up of feminists who believe strongly that women should have control over their own bodies, that no outside authority has any right to impose legal or moral values over the choices they make about their own body, and that a child should be wanted, and hence a woman should not be forced to go through with her pregnancy if she does not want to. Tied in with these pro choice feminist arguments are other factors like overpopulation, poverty of the mother and the reduction of abused children due to unwanted children being aborted.

Another important fact about abortion is that in most countries where abortion is legal, it can be performed at any time during the pregnancy, right up to the moment the child is born. This is a matter of great consternation not only amongst the pro life group, but also amongst people who may be ambivalent about abortion, especially when carried out early, but have an ethical aversion about abortion performed at the later stages of pregnancy.

In earlier days, abortion was done by employing sharpened tools, causing physical trauma in the abdomen, which at times resulted in complications. Today, abortion is induced by administering medication or performed as a surgical procedure by qualified physicians. Regarding the ideal period for abortion, earlier the procedure is performed, the safer it is for the gravida (pregnant woman).

The abortion techniques followed are mainly based on the gestational period and the overall health of the pregnant woman. Basically, there are two types, viz. abortion pill (or medication abortion) and in-clinic abortion. In the former kind, medicines are advocated to end pregnancy; whereas in the latter type of abortion, the fetus is removed by surgical operation. Both types are safe and effective under certain conditions.

The cost of an abortion varies depending upon certain aspects, some of which include pregnancy stage at the time of abortion and the technique opted for the purpose. On an average, abortion cost falls between USD 500-1000. Abortion at a later stage is charged higher than abortion carried out in the early stages, which is mainly because of the risks involved in the former case. Medication abortion is less costly, as compared to the surgical method.

Abortion is a worldwide issue that has gained varied judgments and heated arguments over the years. As the controversy around abortion continues, abortion laws have been enforced in almost all countries. Nevertheless, the jurisdictions may differ from one region to another. In the United States, abortion is illegal; whereas in other states, it is made legal to a specific period (1st trimester or till second trimester). Likewise, abortion laws are varied in different countries.

According to medical data, approximately 42 million abortions occur every year. Out of this, more than 90 percent cases are obtained just because of social reasons. One of the abortion facts in the US is that, one out of every three women have undergone an abortion before they attained 45 years. And more than 50 percent women seeking abortion are below 25 years. A statistical data shows 8 percent reduction in abortion rates during the period 1996 to 2003.

More than 80 percent cases of abortion are procured in developing countries while the remaining less than 20 percent occur in developed countries. In recent times, the number of abortion cases have reduced globally, as more and more people have become aware about its effects, family planning and contraceptives.

My thought and reflection about the ongoing debate on this issue.... As a woman, my natural inclination is pro choice, since I do believe strongly that no outside authority such as the government or a religious group or a secular moral group has any right over the personal decisions I make about my body. However, as a mother and as a thinking human being, I do understand the ethical issues surrounding pro life issues. Since pro choice involves being responsible for my own body, therefore it is my responsibility not to conceive a child irresponsibly. And once a child is conceived, since it is a part of my body for the nine months it lives in it, it is my responsibility not to cause it harm - as I wouldn't cause it harm after it is born.

Of course, this brings the issue of victims of rape and incest into the picture. Should a child conceived from a rape, which includes date rape, or incest, be aborted? Should a woman be forced to continue with the pregnancy until birth in such cases? Well, personally, I would again favor towards the unborn fetus, for it is not responsible for the rape or the incest, and should not be killed for somebody else's crime.

Some of the other factors that bother me are using abortion as a form of birth control or population control, as well as the methods used for aborting the fetus, particularly after the first trimester. Also, using it as a method of selectively aborting female fetuses, as is common in countries like India, China, and so on due to social mores. This form of abortion has to be done at a later stage after the fetus develops enough for the gender to be determined.

Although I have chosen to use the term 'fetus' all through this article so as not to sensationalize the emotive issues that are obvious about these facts about abortion, however, it is also true that ordinarily we say we are pregnant with a baby, and not a fetus. But, even when one uses the clinical term 'fetus' one cannot escape how disturbing and distressing abortion actually is. The ethical issues surrounding abortion will still remain, as long as termination of pregnancy is procured intentionally.