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What are Abortion Rights?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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Abortion rights address the circumstances under which a woman may obtain a legal abortion in a specific jurisdiction. Abortion is a controversial medical procedure in which a pregnancy is terminated through one of several means, including the ingestion of abortifacient drugs or a surgical procedure. Abortion is not legal in all countries, and in places where it is a legal option it is often subject to significant restrictions. Proponents of abortion rights typically seek to loosen or minimize these restrictions on types of abortion, reasons for an abortion, and the time frame in which a woman can undergo an abortion. Opponents of abortion rights, on the other hand, may seek to restrict all access to abortion or severely limit the circumstances under which it may be performed.

Those who support abortion rights, sometimes known as pro-choice advocates, generally argue that a woman has the right to determine what happens inside her own body and should be free to terminate a pregnancy. Those who oppose abortion, who often call themselves pro-life, argue that the fetus has rights as well and that these should not be disregarded when decisions about abortion are made. While there are members of both camps who take a hard-line approach, from those advocating the absence of almost all regulation of abortion to those who want it banned outright, there is generally a broad spectrum of beliefs as to how access to abortion should be controlled.

One significant area of abortion rights is the question of limiting the amount of time a woman has to seek a legal abortion. In some places, women are limited to seeking abortion services while they are only in the first stages of pregnancy. After this time, a woman's right to an abortion can be significantly limited and may be restricted to women who are faced with medical complications. Other restrictions may include the reasons why a woman can seek an abortion, with some places restricting her access to abortion services to cases in which she is the victim of rape or incest, suffering medical problems, or there is an indication that the fetus is suffering from a genetic defect.

Other considerations in abortion rights include limitations on the types of facilities in which an abortion may be performed, the types of abortion procedures that can be performed, and the issue of whether minors should be able to consent to abortion. Some opponents of abortion rights seek to restrict abortion services to hospitals rather than allowing them to be performed in freestanding, outpatient clinics. Some also seek to restrict certain abortion procedures on the grounds that they are unethical or medically dangerous. A particularly contentious issue in abortion rights is whether minors should be able to consent to an abortion or should have to notify or receive permission from a parent or guardian before doing so. In the United States, the individual states are at liberty to set age restrictions on abortion, with some states requiring minors to notify parents before undergoing the procedure.

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