abortion,n.1. An artificially induced termination of a pregnancy for the purpose of destroying
an embryo or fetus. • In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court first recognized a woman’s right to
choose to end her pregnancy as a privacy right stemming from the Due Process Clause of the 14th
Amendment. 410 U.S. 113, 93 S.Ct. 705 (1973). Sixteen years later, in Webster v. Reproductive
Health Services, the Court permitted states to limit this right by allowing them to enact legislation
that (1) prohibits public facilities or employees from performing abortions, (2) prohibits the use of
public funds for family planning that includes information on abortion, or (3) severely limits the
right to an abortion after a fetus becomes viable — that is, could live independently of its mother.
492 U.S. 490, 109 S.Ct. 3040 (1989). In 1992, the Court held that (1) before viability, a woman
has a fundamental right to choose to terminate her pregnancy, (2) a law that imposes an undue
burden on the woman’s right to choose before viability is unconstitutional, and (3) after viability,
the state, in promoting its interest in potential human life, may regulate or prohibit abortion unless
it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa.
v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 112 S.Ct. 2791 (1992). In 2000, the Court again considered abortion rights
and reaffirmed Casey in holding the Nebraska law at issue unconstitutional because (1) it failed to
provide an exception to preserve the health of the mother, and (2) it unduly burdened a woman’s
right to choose a late-term abortion, thereby unduly burdening her right to choose abortion itself.
Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914, 120 S.Ct. 2597 (2000). — Formerly also termed procuring an
abortion; criminal operation; criminal miscarriage; pro-curing miscarriage. [Cases: Abortion and
Birth Control 0.5.] 2. The spontaneous expulsion of an embryo or fetus before viability;
MISCARRIAGE. — abort,vb. — abortionist,n.
“The word ‘abortion,’ in the dictionary sense, means no more than the expulsion of a fetus
before it is capable of living. In this sense it is a synonym of ‘miscarriage.’ With respect to human
beings, however, it has long been used to refer to an intentionally induced miscarriage as distinguished from one resulting naturally or by accident. There has been some tendency to use the
word to mean a criminal miscarriage, and there would be distinct advantages in assigning this
meaning to it; but there are so many references to lawful abortion or justification for abortion that
it is necessary to speak of ‘criminal abortion’ or the ‘crime of abortion’ to emphasize the element
of culpability.” Rollin M. Perkins & Ronald N. Boyce, Criminal Law 186–87 (3d ed. 1982).
“Modern legal historians dispute whether, and to what extent, abortion constituted a crime at
English common law. One view finds that, at most, abortion was an ecclesiastical crime, and
concludes that the common law allowed a woman and her abortionist to terminate a pregnancy at
all stages of gestation without secular penalties. Another claims that all abortions are at least
secular wrongs to the fetus and that only the problems of proving a causal relationship between
some abortions and fetal death prevented the punishment of all abortions. Substantial authority
exists, however, for a middle ground: although no penalties attached to abortions before the fetus
had quickened, performing a postquickening abortion was a common-law crime, most likely a
misdemeanor.” Susan Frelich Appleton, “Abortion,” in 1 Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice 1, 1
(Sanford H. Kadish ed., 1983).
induced abortion.An abortion purposely and artificially caused either by the mother herself or
by a third party. See ABORTIFACIENT.
late-term abortion.An abortion performed during the latter stages of pregnancy, usu. after the
middle of the second trimester.
partial-birth abortion.An abortion in which a viable fetus is partially delivered before being
spontaneous abortion.See MISCARRIAGE.
therapeutic abortion.An abortion carried out to preserve the life or health of the mother.
[Cases: Abortion and Birth Control 0.5.]
“Until recently it was common to speak of ‘therapeutic abortion.’ The literal meaning of the
term is an abortion induced for medical reasons, but it was commonly understood to mean one for
the purpose of saving the mother’s life ….” Rollin M. Perkins & Ronald N. Boyce, Criminal Law
193 (3d ed. 1982).
[Blacks Law 8th]