Abortion should be kept out of the Criminal Code

Essay by Anonymous UserCollege, UndergraduateA-, January 1994

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Abortion, termination of pregnancy before the fetus is capable of independent life.

When the expulsion from the

womb occurs after the fetus becomes viable (capable of

independent life), usually at the end of six months of pregnancy, it is technically a

premature birth.

The practice of abortion was widespread in ancient times as a method of birth control.

Later it was restricted or forbidden by most world religions, but it was not considered an

offense in secular law until the 19th century. During that century, first the English

Parliament and then American state legislatures prohibited induced abortion to protect

women from surgical procedures that were at the time unsafe, commonly stipulating a

threat to the woman's life as the sole ("therapeutic") exception to the prohibition.

Occasionally the exception was enlarged to include danger to the mother's health as well.

Legislative action in the 20th century has been aimed at permitting the termination

of unwanted pregnancies for medical, social, or private reasons.

Abortions at the woman's

request were first allowed by the Soviet Union in 1920, followed by Japan and several

East European nations after World War II. In the late 1960s liberalized abortion

regulations became widespread. The impetus for the change was threefold: (1) infanticide

and the high maternal death rate associated with illegal abortions, (2) a rapidly expanding

world population, (3) the growing feminist movement. By 1980, countries where

abortions were permitted only to save a woman's life contained about 20 percent of the

world's population. Countries with moderately restrictive laws--abortions permitted to

protect a woman's health, to end pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, to avoid

genetic or congenital defects, or in response to social problems such as unmarried status

or inadequate income--contained some 40 percent of the world's population. Abortions at

the woman's request, usually with limits...