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Abortion - Legal to Illegal

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From being legal to illegal and back again, abortion has been through a long and tough struggle around the world and especially in the United States. Many people see abortion as different kinds of procedures and operations, but there can only be one scientific explanation for the procedure that has been on the minds of millions.

Abortion has been around ever since people have been able to write about it. In the early 12th century it was a crime under the Assyrian code. Women that chose to have an abortion where tried, and if convicted, impaled on a stake and denied the dignity of a proper burial. During the Classical Era (6th - 4th century BC), Greece allowed abortion. An abortionist's failure to inform the father was criminally punishable and most of the women were sent to death. In Ancient Rome the father also had the right to know that his wife was going to have an abortion. The women had to tell the father that she was going to have the abortion or face the possibility of death without proper burial. (Flanders 4)

By the end of the 1st century AD the Christian church had declared that abortion was a sin and was punishable with death. In 1588, Pope Sixtus the 5th called abortion the same as murder, and thus subject to the same penalties. Three years later Pope Gregory the 16th eliminated any penalties until ensoulment - which was forty days after conception. In 1869 Pope Pius the 9th removed any distinction between formed and unformed fetus's and made it a sin. (Flanders 5)

In the United States abortion was not an issue until 1812 when Massachusetts' Supreme Court declared that abortion was legal before fetal movement. Until 1821 abortion was legal before fetal movement but Connecticut passed a statute that made it a crime to give a women "quick with a child" a poison meant to cause her to miscarry. Between 1821 and 1841, ten states followed Connecticut's statute and made abortion a crime unless the mothers life was at stake. (Flanders 5-6)

Although abortion was illegal in ten states, the women that where having the abortions where not being put on trial or incarcerated. But in 1845 New York became the first state to punish the women and did place them in prison. In 1859 the American Medical Association passed a resolution condemning abortion and by the end of the century abortions where illegal in all states. (Flanders 5-6)

The laws that made abortion illegal held up in the United States until 1967. Three main reasons that abortion was to become legal in all states where (1) infanticide and high maternal death rate associated with illegal abortions, (2) a rapidly expanding world population and (3) the growing feminist movement. Women where fighting for freedom and equality and part of this was the their ability to control their reproductive lives. Colorado, California and North Carolina became the first states to liberalize their statutes. By 1973, thirteen states had enacted similar measures. The states were coming closer to making abortion legal in all cases up to a designated time proclaimed by the state, and by the early 1970's four states had taken that step and made abortion legal. (Flanders 8, Encarta '97)

The courts now needed to set up a designated time that abortion would be legal and they formed the trimester rule. It stated:

In the 1st trimester of pregnancy the government could not interfere with abortion except to insist a licensed physician perform it.

In the 2nd trimester the government could regulate abortion to protect a women's health and welfare.

In the 3rd trimester the government could act to preserve the fetal life only if it's primary concern was to protect the mother. (Whitney 75)

Today abortion is legal in all states although some states have their own regulations set. Some states regulations include a twenty-four hour waiting period, a doctor obtaining a woman's informed consent and hospitalization for abortions after the first trimester of pregnancy. A woman under the age of eighteen is required to tell her parents of the abortion and have parental consent. A woman over twenty weeks pregnant must have the child tested to see if the child is able to survive outside the womb and if able, the abortion is not to take place. (Encarta '97)

In the United States today, one of every three pregnancies never comes to term because a woman chooses to have an abortion. This translates to 1.5 million in one year. When you include the rest of the world this number rises to something in the order of 50 to 60 million. (Flanders 3)

Of the 50 to 60 million woman having abortions in the year 50 to 60 percent of the pregnancies are unintended. Half of all the abortions could have been avoided through the use of contraceptives. The majority of American women obtaining abortions are single, young and white. The highest abortion ratios are found among unmarried women, women over forty and non-white women. Young women have the greatest number of pregnancies and therefor the greatest ratio of abortions. One out of every twenty will abort. But the fact is that women over the age of forty have more abortions when compared to the number of pregnancies. One out of every two will abort. Women twenty-five to twenty-nine are the least likely to abort with only twenty-two percent. (Flanders 3,13-14)

At about seven to nine days after conception, contact of the egg to the uterus is made. Blood cells begin to grow at seven-teen days and the heart at eight-teen. The embryonic heart begins pulsating at twenty-four days. At seven and a half weeks a functionally complete cardiac system is in existence. At the nineteenth day the eyes form. By the end of the twentieth day the function of the child's brain, spinal

cord and entire nervous system has been established. By twenty- eight days the embryo has forty pairs of muscles. By the end of the first month the fetus is ten thousand times larger than the fertilized egg. By the end of the seventh week we see a well - proportioned small-scale body. The body has became nicely rounded, padded with muscles and covered by a thin layer of skin. After the eighth week no further primordial will form; everything is already present that will be found in the full term baby. (Schwarz 35-37)

In the United States in the ninetieth century many different types of abortions



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