The term abortion refers to any premature expulsion of a human fetus, naturally and/or spontaneously, as in the case of a miscarriage, or artificially induced, as in a surgical or chemical abortions. Today, the most common usage of the term applies to artificially induced termination of pregnancy.
In 1973, the Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions legalizing abortion in all 50 states during all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason, medical, social, or otherwise.
Most abortions performed today are for social not medical reasons—usually because a woman doesn't feel ready for a baby, her partner wants her to have an abortion, etc. About 93% are done for elective, non-medical reasons such as these.
Abortion terminates a pregnancy by destroying and removing the fetus. However, it's important to note developmental milestones as they correlate with the termination procedure:
- The fetus's heart has already begun to beat by the time the mother misses her period and begins to wonder if she might be pregnant (about 31 days after the mothers last menstrual period).
- Surgical abortions are usually not performed before 49 days from the last menstrual period.
- By 49 days, the fetus has identifiable arms and legs (day 45) and displays measurable brain waves (about 40 days).
- During the seventh through the tenth weeks, when the majority of abortions are performed, fingers and genitals appear and the fetus's face is recognizably human.