Dictionary.com defines abortion as “the removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus in order to end a pregnancy; any of various surgical methods for terminating a pregnancy, especially during the first six months.” But the technical definition of abortion does not begin to touch on the emotional and moral aspects of this medical procedure.
Abortion is commonly thought of as voluntary, but it can also describe both natural occurrences in a pregnant woman’s body and beneficial medical choices made to protect the pregnant woman. A spontaneous abortion, or miscarriage, is the involuntary discontinuation of a pregnancy by the mother’s body because of a number of reasons: malformations of the fetus and genetic problems are just two of these reasons. Therapeutic abortion describes any surgical procedure performed to end a pregnancy for the benefit of the mother’s health.
Induced or voluntary abortion, however, is a choice that a woman makes for herself. There are many methods of induced abortion: surgical, chemical, and even herbal. The surgical options vary depending on the duration of the pregnancy. Manual Vacuum Aspiration or Electric Vacuum Aspiration is common during the first trimester, or the first twelve weeks. From about the fifteenth to the twenty-sixth week, Dilation and Evacuation, or D & E, is used. D & C, or Dilation and Curettage is also used at this time. Late-term abortion can be performed by Intact Dilation and Extraction – also called Intrauterine Cranial Decompression, or partial birth abortion – or by a Hysterectomy Abortion.
Chemical abortion is also an option. This is performed by combining drugs to terminate the pregnancy. First methotrexate or mifepristone is given, followed by one of two drugs depending on where the procedure is done: misoprostol is used in the United States; gemeprost is used in the United Kingdom and in Sweden.
In 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of voluntary abortion in the famous Roe vs. Wade case. This case is vital to the rights of women choosing abortion because it provides that right in the first six months of a pregnancy. Between 1995 and 2000, congress tried several times to pass a bill that would ban abortion in the last trimester of pregnancy.
President Bill Clinton vetoed this bill. However, the bill was passed and signed into effect by President George W. Bush in 2003, but was declared unconstitutional in 2004 because it lacked the important allowance of a late-term therapeutic abortion. Since the 1970s, many state legislatures have passed stricter laws on abortion to try and persuade the United States Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade. In 1992, the importance of Roe vs. Wade was reiterated by the Supreme Court.