What is abortion?
Abortion describes the medical procedure for the premature termination of pregnancy.
Abortion procedures change according to the gestation (stage) of the pregnancy. The gestation is measured in weeks counting from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period. These methods range from the administration of drugs at early stages, through to ‘vacuum aspiration’ and medical induction at the latter stages of the pregnancy.
Abortion is legal in Great Britain, but not in Northern Ireland. However, it must be carried out in an authorised environment (usually an NHS hospital), and only after the certification of two registered medical practitioners, except in certain emergencies.
The legal status of abortion has shifted considerably with social values. In the 18th century, English common law allowed abortion, provided it was carried out before the mother felt the foetus move (‘quickening’).