In ancient times abortion was permitted under certain circumstances, such as rape or if carrying the pregnancy to term posed a risk to the mother’s health. More recently, along with the creation of the birth control pill, women have been given more control of their reproductive system this includes abortion. The Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, and its co- case Doe v. Bolton (1973), ruled that abortion was a private matter, and was allowed until the end of the first trimester, after that point, the laws regarding abortion are left up to the states. This judgement caused a storm of controversy, which created two sides to the debate, pro- life and pro-choice.
Abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973. It has been found to be seven times safer than childbirth. However, there are unknown risks, such as the effect of repeated abortions on the female reproductive system. Every year approximately 1.5 million abortions are performed (one out of every four pregnancies are terminated.) Of these abortions that performed, ninety percent are performed within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, through a method called aspiration. Eighty percent of these women are unmarried, and sixty three percent are between the ages of fifteen and twenty- four (Levine185).
Several methods can be used when performing an abortion. The age of the fetus or the length of the pregnancy can determine the safest method. On average, pregnancies last between thirty- nine to forty weeks, which are divided into trimesters. The first consists of the first thirteen weeks; the second is from fourteen to twenty-four weeks; and the final trimester is from twenty- five to birth. Most procedures are performed during the first trimester because it is safer to the woman’s health. In United States, death caused by abortions during this trimester is only one in 100,000, however, anytime after the twelfth week the risk increases by thirty- percent (Merz 1).
There are quite a few different forms of drug based abortions, the most popular is the “morning after” pill. This drug is most commonly given to rape victims. It gives the woman large doses of estrogen within a seventy- two hour window of the event; and then again in twelve hours. Such high doses of hormone halts the fetal development at the earliest stages after conception. The only known side effects of this drug are nausea, headache, dizziness, and fluid retention (Merz 2). Within the first seven weeks of pregnancy, a combination of two drugs can be given in order to abort the fetus. First the drug mifeprlstone (RU-486), which blocks progesterone (a hormone needed to maintain pregnancy.) Forty- eight hours later, she will take misoprostol, which causes the uterus to contract. It is the contractions of the uterus, which expels the fetus (Merz 1).
Vacuum aspiration is used for abortions between the sixth and fourteenth week of pregnancy. The cervix has to be dilated. Dilators can be used to dilate the cervix. Cannula is attached to an electrically powered pump that removes the contents of the uterus (Merz 2). Induction abortion (a second trimester procedure) between the sixteenth and twenty- fourth weeks. A small amount of the fluid the surrounds the fetus (an amniotic fluid), is removed. Another fluid is injected, this is usually a strong saline solution, and this causes the uterus to contract. This procedure can cause heavy bleeding, infection, and injuries to the cervix can occur. A hospital stay of one or more days is required (McGee 20).
Some countries ban together altogether, in 1803, England banned all abortions, this policy quickly soon spread to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In 1920 the former USSR legalized abortion, followed by Japan in 1948, by the 1970s, the United States and much of Europe, Asia, and Canada all had legalized abortion (McGee 24). In some African countries, illegal abortions contribute to up to fifty percent of pregnancy related deaths. In Romania, abortions were outlawed from 1966 to 1989. During this time eighty percent of pregnancy related deaths were caused by illegal abortions. In countries where abortions are legal, deaths are only one percent (McGee 25).
Legalization of abortions began in 1966, when Mississippi allowed abortions due to rape. By 1970, other states