Andrzej Kulczycki

in Public Health

ISBN: 9780199756797
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:


An abortion refers to the termination of a pregnancy. It can be induced (see Definitions, Terminology, and Reference Resources) through a pharmacological or a surgical procedure, or it may be spontaneous (also called miscarriage). Both in the United States and globally, approximately one-fifth of all known pregnancies end in abortion, which is currently one of the safest procedures in medicine when performed by a trained professional in hygienic conditions using modern methods. However, of the estimated 44 million abortions performed worldwide each year, about 21.6 million are unsafe, causing some 47,000 maternal deaths or 13 percent of all maternal deaths. The incidence of abortion may be reduced through good access to a range of effective contraceptive methods, sex education, and appropriate support for women who want to have a child. Historically, women who underwent abortions risked their personal health and social standing. In the 20th century, this situation changed slowly in many countries as abortion procedures became safer and efforts to legalize abortion gained momentum. Nevertheless, abortion is often a controversial matter of health and social policy due to divergent views on such matters as when human life begins, on women’s roles and rights, and the role of government in individuals’ private lives. This entry reflects the broad scope of public health issues concerning the demography of abortion, its epidemiology, legality, and abortion-related methods. It also provides a collection of resources on postabortion care. This article first briefly reviews the terminology used for different types of abortion and outlines resources that detail the history of abortion as well as its general public heath contours in the United States and the world. Less attention is paid to the ethical aspects of abortion, arguments for or against the practice, different cultural or religious views on abortion, and public or political aspects of conflict concerning abortion.

Article.  5894 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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