Abortion and the Right to Life in the International Bibliography

Abortion and the Right to Life in the International Bibliography

Despina A. Tziola (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8153-8.ch010


In this chapter, the authors examine abortion and the right to life in the international bibliography. The touchstone of our discussion is the landmark decision, Roe v Wade, which relied on the 14th Amendment. However, society's view on abortion is not clear, as it depends on many different factors and reasons. Abortion has been a controversial subject in many societies through history because of the moral, ethical, practical, and political power issues that surround it. However, abortions continue to be common in many areas where they are illegal. Today, they are more than mere words. “Soft” international law has also been found determinative in discerning the content of the 14th Amendment. However, the way a country deals with abortion is highly symbolic of women's status and how it treats women generally.
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If we can give a definition of abortion with medical terminology, abortion is the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus 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 rather than miscarriage. Notwithstanding, in this chapter, we will examine both types of abortion.

Generally, legal abortion in industrialized/ developed nations has emerged as one of the safest procedures in contemporary medical practice, with minimum morbidity and a negligible risk of death with case-fatality rates less than one death per 100 000 procedures (Grimes, 2006). However, unsafe abortions result in approximately 70 000 maternal deaths and 5 million disabilities per year globally because of complications (Shah, I. & Ahman, E., 2009). Unfortunately, unsafe abortion presents one of the most critical global public health and human rights challenges of the present times.

The compilation of studies and data on unsafe abortion is an ongoing activity of WHO’s Special Program in Human Reproduction. To estimate abortion incidence, we gathered information from published and unpublished sources obtained from websites of national authorities and non - governmental organizations, data reported to WHO Headquarters and Regional Offices, searches of library databases and through personal contacts with researchers worldwide. An estimated 43.8 million abortions are performed globally each year, with slightly under half of those performed unsafely (Sedgh, 2012). The prevalence of legal abortion varies widely across the countries in which it is generally available. Where the abortion rate is high, it likely reflects that levels of contraceptive use are not sufficient to meet the fertility desires and family planning needs of women and couples. (Sedgh, 2007).

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