The word ‘abortion’ comes from the Latin word ‘aboriri’ meaning ‘to fail to be born’. Abortion can be defined as the premature expulsion of a foetus from a womb (termination of pregnancy)
This could happen naturally or on purpose. Natural abortions are caused for a variety of reasons, some in which the fetus does not develop normally, or if the mother has an injury or disorder that would prevent the birth of the child. Most people refer to the naturally occurring abortions as miscarriages. Other abortions are purposely committed to prevent the birth of a child. These abortions are done because the pregnancy is not wanted, or the pregnancy will endanger the woman's health. Abortions are now easier, less dangerous, and simpler than they once were. In matters of ethics abortion usually refers to the intentional destruction of a foetus in the womb; there are many ethical and social issues regarding abortion.
In the UK abortion became illegal in the nineteenth century, the penalty for having an abortion was life imprisonment. Women trying to escape the unwanted pregnancy were forced to use unreliable and dangerous methods, including poisonous drugs, knitting needles, blows to the abdomen etc.
If a woman had money, she was discreetly taken to a clinic for an illegal abortion. For those without money the only option was ‘back street’ clinics where untrained people performed the operation. Knitting needles were routinely used for this ‘operation’, but there was rarely pain relief. Poor hygiene and (sometimes) banned drugs were another feature of back street abortions. Many women haemorrhaged and some bled to death rather than go to hospital where their symptoms would be recognised.
Many people were appalled by the number of women suffering and dying as a result of illegal (‘back street’) abortions. Due to pressure from the public, an abortion Reform Bill was introduced. This became LAW in 1967 and took effect in 1968.
The Abortion Act of 1967 (Revised 1990) stated...