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Abortion An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by its death. This can occur spontaneously as a miscarriage or be artificially induced by chemical, surgical or other means. "Abortion" can refer to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy; it is sometimes medically defined as either miscarriage or induced termination before the point of viability.[1] Throughout history, abortion has been induced by various methods and the moral and legal aspects of abortion are subject to intense debate in many parts of the world.


The following medical terms are used to categorize abortion:

  • Spontaneous abortion (miscarriage): An abortion due to accidental trauma or natural causes. Most miscarriages are due to incorrect replication of chromosomes; they can also be caused by environmental factors.
  • Induced abortion: Abortion that has been caused by deliberate human action. Induced abortions are further subcategorized into therapeutic and elective:
  • Therapeutic abortion: An abortion performed either...
  • to save the life of the pregnant woman;[2]
  • to preserve the woman's physical or mental health;[2]
  • to terminate pregnancy that would result in a child born with a congenital disorder that would be fatal or associated with significant morbidity;[2] or
  • to selectively reduce the number of fetuses to lessen health risks associated with multiple pregnancy.[2]
  • Elective abortion: Abortion performed for any other reason.
  • In common parlance, the term "abortion" is synonymous with induced abortion. However, in medical texts, the word 'abortion' might exclusively refer to, or may also refer to, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage).

Forms of abortion

Spontaneous abortion

Spontaneous abortions, generally referred to as miscarriages, occur when an embryo or fetus is lost due to natural causes before the 20th week of gestation. A pregnancy that ends earlier than 37 weeks of gestation, if it results in a live-born infant, is known as a "premature birth". When a fetus dies in the uterus at some point late in gestation, beginning at about 20 weeks, or during delivery, it is termed a "stillbirth". Premature births and stillbirths are generally not considered to be miscarriages although usage of these terms can sometimes overlap.

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