FAMILY MEDICAL CARE: THERAPEUTIC ABORTION
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
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
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
The Western world has been a little slower
and more cautious. However,
has led the way, and in April
1968, the "Abortion Act of
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
the figures rapidly climbed to a peak of well
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
However, these figures pale into
insignificance when compared with figures for
where, as far back as
1.7 million terminations were carried out. This has now
settled down to a fairly constant figure of
around 750,000 a
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.
introduced variation to its state laws early in
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