Abortion is technically defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo before fetal viability; however, the term may be defined more broadly to include any termination of pregnancy before birth.[disputed – discuss][note 1] An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced. The term abortion most commonly refers to the induced abortion of a human rather than non-human pregnancy.
Abortion, when induced in the developed world in jurisdictions where the procedure is legal, is among the safest procedures in medicine. However, unsafe abortions (those performed by persons without proper training or outside of a medical environment) result in approximately 70 thousand maternal deaths and 5 million disabilities per year globally. An estimated 42 million abortions are performed globally each year, with 20 million of those performed unsafely. Forty percent of the world's women are able to access therapeutic and elective abortions within gestational limits.
Induced abortion has a long history and has been facilitated by various methods including herbal abortifacients, the use of sharpened tools, physical trauma, and other traditional methods. Contemporary medicine utilizes medications and surgical procedures to induce abortion. The legality, prevalence, cultural status, and religious status of abortion vary substantially around the world. In many parts of the world there is prominent and divisive public controversy over the ethical and legal issues of abortion. Abortion and abortion-related issues feature prominently in the national politics in many nations, often involving the opposing pro-life and pro-choice worldwide social movements (both self-named). The incidence of abortion has declined worldwide as access to family planning education and contraceptive services has increased.