Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a foetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced. The term abortion most commonly refers to the induced abortion of a human pregnancy.
Abortion, when induced in the developed world in accordance with local law, is among the safest procedures in medicine. However, unsafe abortions result in approximately 70 thousand maternal deaths and 5 million disabilities per year globally. An estimated 44 million abortions are performed globally each year, with slightly under half of those performed unsafely. The incidence of abortion has stabilized in recent years, having previously spent decades declining as access to family planning education and contraceptive services increased. Forty percent of the world's women have access to induced abortions (within gestational limits).
Induced abortion has a long history and has been facilitated by various methods including herbal abortifacients, the use of sharpened tools, physical trauma, and other traditional methods. Contemporary medicine utilizes medications and surgical procedures to induce abortion. The legality, prevalence, cultural and religious status of abortion vary substantially around the world. In many parts of the world there is prominent and divisive public controversy over the ethical and legal issues of abortion.
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