There is a marked difference between what the word abortion actually means and what it conjures up in the minds of most people. To many people the very word suggests an illegal, dangerous, and furtive operation performed by depraved persons on a dirty kitchen table under unsafe and unsanitary conditions. This picture conveys the essence of the general attitude toward abortion, but not the facts of this still largely illegal procedure. Unfortunately, deplorable circumstances still exist, as do dire results for those women who are driven to seek the services of the unprincipled. But, hopefully, the present status of abortion is changing so that the classic view may shortly under go a decisive change.
While the pressure for widely available abortion-on-demand increases, the procedure remains a criminal act everywhere, except in the Soviet Union, other Communist countries, and, since 1970, in four so-culled “repeal” states: Alaska, Aawaii. New York, and Washington. Legal abortions are thus now available in the United States, but only in New York State are there no residence requirements attached. Therapeutic or medically-indicated abortions also have been more readily available since 1970 in the 12 “reform” states: Arkansas, California. Colorado. Delaware, Georgia. Kansas, Maryland, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, and Virginia. Originally. the word abortion derives from the Latin aborire, to fail to be born or to perish.
By definition, an abortion is any premature expulsion of the products of conception or contents of the pregnant uterus within the first 28 weeks of pregnancy. No one calls a spontaneous abortion anything but a miscarriage. (See Miscarriage.) Abortion also refers to the immature birth product as yet incapable of life: the embryo during the first eight weeks and. thereafter, the fetus up to 20 weeks. By dictionary definition, the 28th week remains the furthest limit of an abortion, for from the 21st to the 27th week the fetus is previable; that is, it is unable to survive on its own. After that, a premature delivery occurs.
But since the fetus is apparently capable of life (viable) prior to the 28th week, legal abortion must be performed before the end of the 20th week Of pregnancy in most states and the 24th week in New York. An abortion is most simply and safely performed before the end of the 12th week.