Abortion Law and Legal Definition

Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by various methods, including medical surgery, before the fetus is able to sustain independent life. In Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113 (1973), the U. S. Supreme Court determined that the Constitution protects a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. Specifically, the Court ruled that during the first trimester of pregnancy the state cannot bar any woman from obtaining an abortion from a licensed physician. During the second trimester, the state can regulate the abortion procedure only to protect the woman’s health. In the third trimester, the state may regulate to protect fetal life, but not at the expense of the woman’s life or health.

In a companion case, Doe v. Bolton, 410 U. S. 179 (1973), the Court held further that a state may not unduly burden a woman's fundamental right to abortion by prohibiting or substantially limiting access to the means of effectuating her decision. Some state legislatures have passed limitations such as requiring teenage girls to obtain their parents' consent in order to get an abortion. Political efforts are currently being made to limit certain types of abortion procedures and time frames within which to perform certain abortions.

The following is an example of a state criminal statute dealing with inducing or attempting to induce abortion:

"Any person who willfully administers to any pregnant woman any drug or substance or uses or employs any instrument or other means to induce an abortion, miscarriage or premature delivery or aids, abets or prescribes for the same, unless the same is necessary to preserve her life or health and done for that purpose, shall on conviction be fined not less than $100.00 nor more than $1,000.00 and may also be imprisoned in the county jail or sentenced to hard labor for the county for not more than 12 months."