Regulation of abortion

Abortion has been practiced around the world since ancient times as a crude method of birth control. Although many religions forbade or restricted the practice, abortion was not considered illegal in most countries until the 19th century. There were laws prior to this time, however, that banned abortion after quickening-that is, the time that fetal movement can first be felt. In 1803 England banned all abortions, and this policy soon spread to Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Regulation of abortion

Throughout the middle and late 1800s, many states in the United States enacted similar laws banning abortion. In the 20th century, however, many nations began to relax their laws against abortion. The former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) legalized abortion in 1920, followed by Japan in 1948, and several Eastern European countries in the 1950s. In the 1960s and 1970s, much of Europe and Asia, along with the United States, legalized abortion.

An estimated 46 million abortions are performed worldwide each year, of which 20 million are performed in countries where abortion is restricted or prohibited by law. Illegal abortions are more likely to be performed by untrained people, in unsanitary conditions, or with unsafe surgical procedures or drugs. As a result, illegal abortion accounts for an estimated 78,000 deaths worldwide each year, or about one in seven pregnancy-related deaths. In some African countries, illegal abortion may contribute to up to 50 percent of pregnancy-related deaths. In Romania, where abortion was outlawed from 1966 to 1989, an estimated 86 percent of pregnancy-related deaths were caused by illegal abortion. In countries where abortion is legal, less than 1 percent of pregnancy-related deaths are caused by abortion.

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