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FAMILY MEDICAL CARE: THERAPEUTIC ABORTION

In recent years great changes have taken place in the attitude towards therapeutic abortion. This means that abortion is carried out by a doctor as a method of treating his patient, and for her welfare.

Prior to this, abortion was considered a criminal offence, both for the person carrying out the operation as well as for the participant-patient. Only under very unusual circumstances was the action legally condoned.

However, world-wide attitudes are changing. As the population explosion becomes an increasing problem in many countries, the laws have been reshaped or indeed changed com­pletely. Now, in many Scandinavian countries, Eastern lands and Japan, abortion is freely available and indeed actively encouraged for social and economic reasons.

In quite a few places it is readily available completely free of charge, and carried out in government hospitals under their care and at their expense. Certain safeguards are present, but many consider it an attempt by such countries to survive the pressing urgency of population problems.

The Western world has been a little slower and more cautious. However, Britain has led the way, and in April 1968, the "Abortion Act of 1967" came into force. Basically, this removed many of the previous barriers to the legal termination of pregnancy for therapeutic reasons. Abortion became legally permissible, provided a set of clear-cut regulations were followed. However, the actual interpretation of some of these requirements seemed open to wide variation. The result has been an enormous increase in the rate of legal terminations being carried out.

From the low point in 1968 the figures rapidly climbed to a peak of well over 160,000 in 1974. After this they started to decline slightly, probably because abortion reform became available in certain other European countries, and women who travelled to the U.K. for treatment now found this was no longer necessary.

However, these figures pale into insignifi­cance when compared with figures for Japan where, as far back as 1955, an estimated 1.7 million terminations were carried out. This has now settled down to a fairly constant figure of around 750,000 a year - still a vast number, nevertheless.

In America various states have undertaken "reform," and termination of pregnancy is now more readily available.

The Australian scene has taken a major change in recent years. South Australia introduced variation to its state laws early in the 1970s, making it more readily available under a closely scrutinized set of rules. New South Wales left the law intact, but judicial decisions later opened the way with the existing legislation for a much wider interpretation to be given.

 

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Discrimination Law Today 2006