The Tiller murder and the legislative and judicial hearings on partial-birth abortion have focused public attention on late-term abortion in the U.S. Late-term abortion is not an exact medical term, but it has been used to refer to abortions in the third trimester (28-39 weeks) or even second trimester abortions (13-27 weeks). According to less-than-perfect statistics collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Guttmacher Institute, 12% of U.S. abortions, approximately 144,000 procedures a year, are performed after the first trimester, that is, more than 12 weeks elapsed time after the woman’s last menstrual period. About 15,600 abortions, 1.3% of the 1.2 million abortions in 2005, occur after the 20th week. Late-term abortions have been part of the American landscape since the Supreme Court issued its landmark 1973 rulings in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton – both issued on the same day. Roe authorized abortion beyond the point of fetal viability to protect the “life or health” of the mother. Doe provided such a broad definition of “health” that it effectively required that there be abortion-on-demand through a pregnancy’s entirety. Thus, the Supreme Court’s abortion decisions imposed on the United States one of the most permissive abortion law regimes in the world.

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