Reviews Book

Abortion in the USA and the UK

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 22 July 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:236
  1. James Dixon (, specialist registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology
  1. Gloucestershire Royal Hospital

    The legitimacy or otherwise of induced abortion has been influenced by social, political, and medical perceptions. From the 13th century to the early 19th century induced abortion was legal under English common law, before the onset of quickening at 15 to 18 weeks gestation. However, to cause the death of an animate child in utero was considered homicide. The law changed fundamentally in 1803, making any attempt to induce an abortion at any gestation using a noxious or destructive substance a capital offence, largely because abortion was considered …

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