Abortion, termination of a pregnancy before birth, resulting in the death of the fetus. Some abortions occur naturally because a fetus does not develop normally or because the mother has an injury or disorder that prevents her from carrying the pregnancy to term. This type of spontaneous abortion is commonly known as a miscarriage. Other abortions are induced-that is, intentionally brought on-because a pregnancy is unwanted or presents a risk to a woman's health, or because the fetus is likely to have severe physical or mental health problems.
Induced abortion, the focus of this article, is one of today's most intense and polarizing ethical and philosophical issues. Modern medical techniques have made induced abortions simpler and less dangerous. But in the United States, the debate over abortion has led to legal battles in the courts, in the Congress of the United States, and state legislatures. The debate has spilled over into confrontations, which are sometimes violent, at clinics where abortions are performed.
This article discusses the most common methods used to induce abortions, the social and ethical issues surrounding abortion, and the history of the regulation of abortion in the United States.