How Was Abortion Performed Back in the Day and Today
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In Roe v. Wade (1973), the US Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to an abortion through the end of the first trimester, or the twelfth week of pregnancy. After twelve weeks, a woman’s access to abortion may be restricted based on the discretion of the states, as well as the level of risk that the pregnancy poses to the woman’s health.
The strongest force behind the drive to criminalize abortion was the attempt by doctors to establish for themselves exclusive rights to practice medicine. They wanted to prevent “untrained” practitioners, including midwives, apothecaries, and homeopaths, from competing with them for patients and for patient fees.
Canada has proved that no criminal law is feasible and acceptable (Kassebaum N. J., Bertozzi-Villa A., 1990). Sweden has proved that abortions after 18 weeks can effectively disappear with very good services, and WHO has shown that first-trimester abortions can be provided safely and effectively at the primary and community level by trained mid-level providers and provision of medical abortion pills by trained pharmacy workers. Finally, web- and phone-based telemedicine services are showing that clinic-based services are not required to provide medical abortion pills safely and effectively. But to achieve these goals, or something close to them, it takes a strong and active national coalition, a critical mass of support, and—with luck and knowing what the goalposts are—less than 100 years of campaigning to make change happen on the ground (World Health Organization. 2012).
World Health Organization. Safe abortion: Technical and policy guidance for health systems. Geneva: WHO; 2012.
Kassebaum N. J., Bertozzi-Villa A., Coggeshall M. S., et al. “Global, regional, and national levels and causes of maternal mortality during 1990–2013: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013” Lancet. 2014;384(9947):980–1004.
World Health Organization. Primary Health Care: Now More than Ever. World Health Report 2008. Geneva: WHO; 2008. p. 65