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01:19, March 25, 2008
Added introductory remarks/definition and some statistics
Abortion is the medical termination of a pregnancy either by surgical procedure or other means, commonly performed by doctors in the developed or western world. It is generally available in private clinics and hospitals. Abortion has become the most debated of all sexual health issues by medical professionals, women’s liberationists and religious and social groups.
The abortion debate became prominent, in the western world, in the 1930’s when the decriminalisation of abortion was advocated as a result of many women losing their lives during attempted non-medically endorsed abortions by ‘abortion practitioners’ who often had little or no medical knowledge and experience. The history of abortion and its practice however outdate this debate by nearly three thousand years. The Hippocratic Oath clearly forbids the practice of abortion when it makes reference to “ουδέ γυναικί πεσσόν φθόριον δώσω” (“… nor should I give to a woman something corruptible in order to abort…”), while the International Code of Medical Ethics states “a doctor must always bear in mind the importance of preserving life from the moment of conception until death”. Unlike today however, where abortion is a simply a moral dilemma, the termination of pregnancy in antiquity was seen as an abominable crime given that it was not a medical problem but a social problem in which medical practitioners were asked to become social executioners.
Current estimates indicate that the number of abortions among adolescent women globally (WHO 1986 definition of adolescent is used here referring to those 15-24 rather than the traditionally accepted 10-19) is approximately 4.5 million (UNFPA 1998). There are no precise figures for women of all ages although the World Health Organisation estimates that some 27 million abortions are carried out each year (WHO 2004). The total number of abortions performed are not known because of the numbers of unsafe abortions that go unrecorded predominantly in developing countries estimated in the tens of millions (Benagiano 2000).
Abortion statistics can be studied as incidences or they can be looked at in comparison with birth rates. A population study Benagiano refers to highlights this. While showing the Russian Federation’s abortion rate, which was relatively low compared to other European countries in 1995, it revealed that 179 abortions were performed per 100 births therefore nearly two for every one birth (Monnier 1998). It is therefore imperative that abortion statistics are not viewed as either incidences or rates, but as both.
Abortion has been a major political, moral, and emotional issue in the United States for decades now. We have seen too often political slogans such as:
* "It's a child, not a choice;"
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