• Abortion: the deliberate termination of a pregnancy and removal of the foetus from the womb. • Embryo: developing baby in first 8 weeks
• Foetus: 8 weeks till birth
• Gestation: time since fertilization
• Viability: being able to live outside the womb
1-9 weeks: Early Medical Abortion
• 3 tablets given.
• 2 days later she is given a pessary to soften cervix and speed up process.
• Drug blocks action of progesterone so lining breaks down and embryo lost in bleeding
(similar to miscarriage)
5-15 weeks : Vacuum Aspiration
• Anaesthetic used
• Cervix is stretched open (pessary to relax and soften cervix)
• Thin plastic tube eased in
• Contents sucked up tube by electric pump
15-20 weeks: Surgical- Dilation and Evacuation
• Under light general anaesthetic
• Doctor stretches passage through cervix till it is wide enough for narrow forceps to be used to remove contents.
• Tube attached to vacuum removes remaining tissue. Methods
15-24 weeks: Medical Induction
• “Prostaglandin” drug used to soften cervix and make uterus contract therefore inducing labour that is like having a miscarriage.
• This lasts for 6-12 hours.
• May be pain for hour or so
• Bleeding could last from 5-145 days.
20-24 weeks: Two Stage Procedure:
• Surgical 2 stage procedure.
• One to cut umbilical cord
• Another surgical procedure to remove contents of womb.
• Woman given general anaesthetic before each stage. Issues
There are many issues surrounding abortion. For example: 1) The Law
3) Status of the unborn child
A foetus should be given legal protection if it is viable (able to survive outside the womb). Those that believe life begins before viability believe the most dangerous place to live in Britain is you’re mother’s womb as recently abortion has increased to 185000 abortions in Britain.
Prior to 1967Abortion illegal. 1991- Human fertilization and
Embryology act reduced upper limit to 24 weeks as medical advances allowed babies to be born and survive at 24 weeks.
Abortion act of 1967Allows abortion up to 28 weeks if 2 doctors agree the pregnancy is detrimental to the physical or mental health of the mother or existing children. Abortion permitted till birth if serious abnormality or mothers life at risk.
• Opinions on abortion can be roughly divided into 2:
1) Those who argue for the rights of the Mother being able to choose whether she terminates the pregnancy or not. (Pro Choice)
2) Those who argue for the rights of the Foetus being a person who is therefore protected by law and worthy of rights. (Pro Life)
Status of the Unborn Child
• In British Law, no status is given to the child until it is viable.
• As science advances, limits for viability will decrease therefore its status will increase.
• Pro-life: full status should be given to embryo/ foetus at other stages of pregnancy (conception < Catholic position) as this is when life begins and termination from this point onwards is tantamount to murder.
• Also other points (implantation, quickening, beginning of heart beat or brain activity) that people argue they should be given the status deserved of rights.
• Abortion law in Britain makes a distinction between those foetus’ that are able bodied and those that are seriously disabled.
• A foetus that is seriously disabled can be aborted till birth – therefore is the law saying the life of an unborn disabled is not the same value of an unborn able child?
Views on Personhood
• James Mackie- basic argument “the unborn child is already a human being, a person, a bearer of rights and abortion is therefore murder”
• Pro Choice- this is nonsense as the embryo at best is a potential, not an actual human being.
• Pro Life (Roman Catholic Church)- “from the time the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor mother, it is rather the life of a new human being, with its own growth.”