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abortion

n. the termination of pregnancy by various means, including medical surgery, before the fetus is able to sustain independent life. Until 1973 abortion was considered a crime (by the mother and the doctor) unless performed by physicians to protect the life of the mother, a phrase often broadly interpreted. Untrained persons performed thousands of abortions each year in the U.S. using hasty, unsanitary and dangerous means, resulting in maiming, permanent damage of organs, and death of many women. The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Roe v. Wade (1973) that a woman had the right to choose abortion to end a pregnancy through the first trimester (three months) of gestation. In the latter stages of pregnancy, danger to the life of the mother could still justify a legal abortion. Political struggles followed over legalized abortions. Some state legislatures passed limitations such as requiring teenage girls to obtain their parents' consent in order to get an abortion. Despite appointment of anti-abortion justices by Presidents Reagan and Bush, the Supreme Court has not over-turned the basic Wade case rule. President Bill Clinton's appointments are expected to make legalized abortion continue in the future.


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