Director of Research, National Committee on Maternal Health, Inc.
INDUCED abortion has been practiced since the dawn of history. In some societies, abortion has been prescribed under cerrain circumstances; in many, it is tolerated; and in still others, severely condemned. At present, its legal status ranges from strict prohibition and clandestine practice to virtually complete permissiveness through legalization, provided the operation is performed by a physician in a hospital.
In the United States, the laws of most states stipulate a threat to the life of the pregnant woman as the sole legal ground on which pregnancy may be interrupted. This permission is extended, in a few states by statute and elsewhere in practice, to cases where a serious threat to health is to be averted. In many places, certain eugenic indications, such as German measles in the first trimester of pregnancy, are also recognized. The interpretation of the taw by physicians and hospital administrators is, as a rule, on the conservative side.
Table 1 shows the numbers of therapeutic abortions performed from 1943 through 1957 in New York City, the only jurisdiction where all fetal deaths must be registered. While the____________________